Letters of Catherine Benincasa
Catherine Benincasa

Part 5 out of 5


Giovanna of Naples was one of the most depraved, as well as one of the
most romantic, figures of her time. In fascination, as in evil, she
anticipates the type of the women of the renascence. Her many crimes had
never prevented Catherine Benincasa from yearning over her with a peculiar
tenderness, and we have many letters written by the daughter of the dyer
of Siena to the great Neapolitan queen. Some of the earlier among these
letters seem, curiously enough, not to have been without effect; for
Giovanna not only replied to them, but gave her promise to join in a

Now that the Great Schism had broken forth, the adhesion of Giovanna to
the cause of Urban, who was politically her subject, was of prime
importance; and Catherine wrote her about the matter, not once, but many
times. In her varied correspondence at this period, these letters have a
peculiar interest, from the passionate personal feeling which pervades
them. It is not only for the sake of the truth that Catherine pleads and
argues, but for the sake of Giovanna's salvation; one would think that
even the hardened old Queen must have been touched with the intense and
tender solicitude of the following letter, even if she were not convinced
by its irrefutable reasoning. As a matter of fact, Giovanna, after having
for a time sided with Clement, did temporarily change her base and espouse
the cause of Urban. Soon, however, she reverted to her former position. It
is probable that for her, as for many European sovereigns, the matter was
decided by considerations with which the naif question of the legitimacy
of a papal election had little or nothing to do.

Dearest mother in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of
the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood: with
desire to see you grounded in the truth which we must know and love for
our salvation. He who shall be grounded in the knowledge of the Truth,
Christ sweet Jesus, shall win and enjoy peace and quiet of soul, in the
ardour of that charity which receives the soul into this knowledge.

We should know this truth in two chief ways--although it befits us to know
it in everything--that is, everything which exists should love itself in
God and through God, who is Truth itself, and there is nothing without
Him; otherwise it would escape from truth and would walk in falsehood,
following the devil, who is the father thereof. I was saying that we ought
to recognize truth especially in two ways. The first is, we should
recognise the truth about God. He loves us unspeakably, and loved us
before we were; nay, by love He created us--this was and is the truth--in
order that we might have life eternal and enjoy His highest eternal good.
What shows us that this is truly so? The Blood, shed for us with such fire
of love. In the sweet Blood of the Word, the Son of God, we shall know the
truth of His doctrine, which gives life and light, scattering every shadow
of fleshly love and human self-indulgence, but knowing and following with
pure heart the doctrine of Christ crucified, which is grounded in the
truth. The second and last way is, that we ought to recognize the truth
about our neighbour, whether he be great or humble, subject or lord. That
is, when we see that men are doing some deed in which we might invite our
neighbour to join, we ought to perceive whether it is grounded in truth or
not, and what foundation he has who is impelled to do this deed. He who
does not do this, acts as one mad and blind, who follows a blind guide,
grounded in falsehood, and shows that he has no truth in himself, and
therefore seeks not the truth. Sometimes it happens that people are so
insane and brutal that they see themselves lose through such a deed the
life of soul and body and their temporal possessions; and they do not
care, for they are blinded, and do not know what they ought to know; they
walk in darkness, with a feminine nature that lacks any firmness or

Dearest mother,--in so far as you are a lover of truth and obedient to
Holy Church I call you mother, but in no otherwise, nor do I speak to you
with reverence, because I see a great change in your person. You who were
a lady have made yourself a servant, and slave of that which is not,
having submitted yourself to falsehood, and to the devil, who is its
father; abandoning the counsels of the Holy Spirit and accepting the
counsels of incarnate demons. You who were a branch of the true vine, have
cut yourself off from it with the knife of self-love. You who were a
legitimate daughter, tenderly beloved of her father, the Vicar of Christ
on earth, Pope Urban VI., who is really the Pope the highest pontiff, have
divided yourself from the bosom of your mother, Holy Church, where for so
long a time you have been nourished. Oh me! oh me! one can mourn over you
as over a dead woman, cast off from the life of grace; dead in soul and
dead in body, if you do not escape from such an error. It appears that you
have not known God's truth in the way I spoke of; for had you known it,
you would have chosen death rather than to offend God mortally. Nor have
you known truth about your neighbour; but in great ignorance, moved by
your own passion, you have followed the most miserable and insulting
counsel--having acted according to it--that I ever heard of. What greater
shame can be incurred than that one who was a Christian, held to be a
Catholic and virtuous woman, should act like a Christian who denies her
faith, and depart from good and holy customs and the due reverence she has
observed? Oh me! open the eye of your mind, and sleep no more in so great
misery. Do not await the moment of death--after which it will not help you
to make excuses, nor to say: "I thought to do good." For you know that you
do ill, but like a sick and passionate woman, you let yourself be guided
by your passions.

I am quite sure that the counsel came from someone beside yourself. Will,
will to know the truth; who those men are, and why they make you see
falsehood for truth, saying that Pope Urban VI. is not true Pope, and
making you consider that the antipope, who is simply an antichrist, member
of the devil, is Christ on earth. With what truth can they say that to
you? Not with any; but they say it with entire falsity, lying over their
heads. What can those iniquitous men say?--not men, but incarnate demons
--since, on whatever side they turn, they must see that they have done
nothing but ill. Even were it true--as it is not--that Pope Urban VI. was
not the Pope, they would merit a thousand deaths for this alone, as liars
discovered in their untruth; for had they chosen him through fear in the
beginning, and not honestly with a regular election, and had presented him
to us as a true Pope, see! they would have shown us a lie for truth,
making us, and themselves at the same time, obey and reverence him whom we
ought not. For they did do him reverence, and asked favours from him, and
profited by them, as if they came from the highest pontiff, as they did. I
say, that were it true that he was not the Pope--(which is not the case,
by the great goodness of God, who has had mercy upon us)--for this reason
alone they could not be too severely disciplined; but they deserve a
thousand thousand deaths to pretend that they elected the Pope through
fear, when it was not so. But they cannot speak the truth, being men
founded in falsehood, for they cannot so hide it that its darkness and
stench cannot be seen and felt. What they pretended is perfectly true:
they did elect a Pope through fear after they had elected the true Pope,
Messer Bartolomeo, Archbishop of Bari, who to-day is Pope Urban VI.: that
was, Messer di Santo Pietro. But he, like a good man and just, confessed
that he was not the Pope, but Messer Bartolomeo, Archbishop of Bari, who
to-day is called Pope Urban VI., and revered by faithful Christians as
highest pontiff and most just man, despite wicked men--not Christians, for
they bear the name of Christ neither on their lips nor on their heart--but
infidels who have deserted the faith and obedience of Holy Church and the
Vicar of Christ on earth, branches cut off from the True Vine, sowers of
schism and of greatest heresy.

Open, open the eye of your mind, and sleep no more in such blindness. You
should not be so ignorant nor so separated from the true light as not to
know the wicked life, with no fear of God, of those who have led you into
so great heresy: for the fruits which they bear show you what kinds of
trees they are. Their life shows you that they do not tell the truth; so
do the counsellors they have about them, without and within, who may be
men of knowledge, but they are not men of virtue, nor men whose life is
praiseworthy, but rather to be blamed for many faults. Where is the just
man whom they have chosen for antipope, if indeed our highest pontiff,
Pope Urban VI., were not the true Vicar of Christ? What man have they
chosen? A man of holy life? No, but an iniquitous man, a demon--and
therefore he does the works of demons. The devil exerts himself to
withdraw us from the truth, and he does the very same thing. Why did they
not choose a just man? Because they knew well enough that a just man would
have chosen death rather than to have accepted the papacy, since he would
have seen no colour of truth in them. Therefore the demons took the demon,
and the liars the lie. All these things show that Pope Urban VI. is truly
Pope, and that they are without truth, lovers of the lie.

If you said to me, "My mind is not clear as to all these things," why do
you not at least stay neutral? although it is as clear as can possibly be
said. And if you are not willing to help the Pope with your temporal
substance until you have more illumination--(help which you are in duty
bound to give, because the sons ought to help the father when he is in
need)--at least obey him in spiritual things, and in other things remain
neutral. But you are behaving like a passionate woman; and hate, and
spite, and the fear of losing him of whom you deprived yourself, which you
caught from a cursed teller of tales, has robbed us of light and
knowledge; for you do not know the truth, obstinately persevering in this
evil; and in this obstinacy you do not see the judgment which is coming
upon you.

Oh me! I say these words with heartfelt grief, because I tenderly love
your salvation. If you do not change your ways, and correct your life, by
abandoning this great error, and in regard to everything else, the highest
Judge, who does not let sins pass unpunished unless the soul purifies them
with contrition of heart and confession and satisfaction, will give you
such a punishment that you will become a signal instance to cause anyone
to tremble who should ever lift his head against the Holy Church. Wait not
for this rod; for it will be hard for you to kick against the divine
justice. You are to die, and know not when. Not riches, nor position,
however great, nor worldly dignity, nor barons, nor people who are your
subjects as to the body, shall be able to defend you before the highest
Judge, nor hinder the divine justice. But sometimes God works through
rascally men, in order that they may execute justice on His enemy. You
have invited and invite the people and all your subjects to be rather
against you than with you; for they have found little truth in your
character--not the quality of a man with virile heart, but that of a woman
without any firmness or stability, a woman who changes like a leaf in the

They have well in mind that when Pope Urban VI., true Pope, was created by
a great and true election, and crowned with great solemnity, you held a
great and high festival, as the child should do over the exaltation of the
father, and the mother over that of the son. For he was both son and
father to you; father, through his dignity to which he had come, son
because he was your subject--that is to say, of your kingdom. Therefore
you did well. Further, you commanded everyone to obey his Holiness as the
highest pontiff. Now I see that you have turned about, like a woman who
has no decision, and you will them to do the contrary. Oh, miserable
passion! That evil which you have in yourself you wish to impart to them.
How do you suppose that they can love you and be faithful to you, when
they see that you are responsible for separating them from life and
leading them into death, and casting them from truth into falsehood? You
separate them from Christ in heaven and from Christ on earth, and seek to
bind them to the devil, and to antichrist--lover and prophet of lies that
he is, he and you and the others who follow him.

No more thus for the love of Christ crucified! You are in every way
calling down the divine judgment. I grieve for it. If you do not hinder
the ruin that is coming upon you, you cannot escape from the hands of God.
Either by justice or by mercy, you are in His hands. Correct your life,
that you may escape the hands of justice, and remain in those of mercy.
And do not wait for the time, for an hour comes when you shall wish and
cannot. O sheep, return to your fold; let you be governed by the Shepherd:
else the wolf of hell shall devour you! Take back for your guards the
servants of God, who love you in truth more than you yourself, and good,
mature and discreet counsellors. For the counsel of incarnate demons, with
the inordinate fear into which they have thrown you through terror of
losing your temporal state--(which passes like the wind with no
permanence, for either it leaves us, or we it through death)--has brought
you where you are. You shall yet weep, if you change not your ways,
saying: "Alas, alas! I am one who has robbed herself, on account of the
fear into which I was thrown by villainous counsellors!" But there is yet
time, dearest mother, to avert the judgment of God. Return to the
obedience of Holy Church: know the ill that you have wrought: humble you
under the mighty hand of God; and God, who has regard to the humility of
His handmaid, shall show mercy upon us: He will placate His wrath over
your faults; through the mediation of the Blood of Christ, you shall be
grafted and bound in Him with the chain of that charity in which you shall
know and love the truth. The truth shall set you free from lie: it shall
scatter all shadows, giving you light and knowledge in the mercy of God.
In this truth you shall be freed; in other wise, never.

And because the truth sets us free, I, having desire for your salvation,
said that I desired to see you established in the truth, that it be not
wronged by falsehood. I beg you, fulfil in yourself the will of God and
the desire of my soul, for with all the depth and all the strength of my
soul I desire your salvation. And, therefore, constrained by the Divine
Goodness which loves you unspeakably, I have moved me to write to you with
great sorrow. Another time, also, I wrote you on this same matter. Have
patience if I burden you too much with words, and if I speak with you
boldly, irreverently. The love which I bear to you makes me speak with
boldness: the fault which you have committed makes me depart from due
reverence, and speak irreverently. I could wish far rather to tell you the
truth by speech than by writing, for your salvation, and chiefly for the
honour of God; and I would far rather deal in deeds than in words with him
who is to blame for it all, although the blame and the reason is in
yourself, since there is no one, neither demon nor creature, who can force
you to the least fault unless you choose. Therefore I said to you that you
are the cause of it. Bathe you in the Blood of Christ crucified. There are
scattered the clouds of self-love and servile fear, and the poison of hate
and self-scorn. I say no more to you. Remain in the holy and sweet grace
of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Sister Daniella has found herself in straits again; constrained, it would
seem, by the Spirit, to action not endorsed by her religious superiors.
Possibly she wished, following the example of Catherine, to leave her
cloister and take part in the public life of her time. Catherine herself
had been in like straits during much of her early life. Well she knew, as
St. Francis knew before her, the suffering of that inward conflict, when
the Voice of God summons one way, and the voices of men, reinforced by
that instinct of humility and obedience which the middle ages held so
dear, insist upon another. She writes to her friend with comprehending
sympathy. Daniella, as we have already seen, was a woman who understood
her and whom she understood. And it must have been a relief to Catherine,
at this point in her career, for once to encourage ardour instead of
rebuking sin or seeking to inspire timidity. Our saint is so constantly on
the side of obedience, when, as not infrequently happens, some weak
brother or sister is restless under the yoke of vows, that we are sure she
must know her woman when she writes: "Fear and serve God, disregarding
yourself; and then do not care what people say unless it is to feel
compassion for them."

We see at the end of the letter that Catherine is on the point of going to
Rome. In fact, Urban had summoned her thither, being evidently alive to
the advantages of the support of one so famed for sanctity. In Rome the
remainder of her life was to be passed.

In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest daughter in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of
the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood: with
desire to see thee in true and very perfect light, that thou mayest know
the truth in perfection. Oh, how necessary this light is to us, dearest
daughter! For without it we cannot walk in the Way of Christ crucified, a
shining Way that brings us to life; without it we shall walk among shadows
and abide in great storm and bitterness. But, if I consider aright, it
behoves us to possess two orders of this light. There is a general light,
that every rational creature ought to have, for recognizing whom he ought
to love and obey--perceiving in the light of his mind by the pupil of most
holy faith, that he is bound to love and serve his Creator, loving Him
directly, with all his heart and mind, and obeying the commandments of the
law to love God above everything, and our neighbour as ourselves. These
are the principles by which all men beside ourselves are held. This is a
general light, which we are all bound by; and without it we shall die, and
shall follow, deprived of the life of grace, the darkened way of the
devil. But there is another light, which is not apart from this, but one
with it--nay, by this first, one attains to the second. There are those
who, observing the commandments of God, grow into another most perfect
light; these rise from imperfection with great and holy desire, and attain
unto perfection, observing both commandments and counsels in thought and
deed. One should use this light with hungry desire for the honour of God
and the salvation of souls, gazing therewith into the light of the sweet
and loving Word, where the soul tastes the ineffable love which God has to
His creatures, shown to us through that Word, who ran as enamoured to the
shameful death of the Cross, for the honour of the Father and for our

When the soul has known this truth in the perfect light, it rises above
itself, above its natural instincts; with intense, sweet and loving
desires, it runs, following the footsteps of Christ crucified, bearing
pains, bearing shame, ridicule and insult with much persecution, from the
world, and often from the servants of God under pretext of virtue.
Hungrily it seeks the honour of God and the salvation of souls; and so
much does it delight in this glorious food, that it despises itself and
everything else: this alone it seeks, and abandons itself. In this perfect
light lived the glorious virgins and the other saints, who delighted only
in receiving this food with their Bridegroom, on the table of the Cross.
Now to us, dearest daughter and sweet my sister in Christ sweet Jesus, He
has shown such grace and mercy that He has placed us in the number of
those who have advanced from the general light to the particular--that is,
He has made us choose the perfect state of the Counsels: therefore we
ought to follow that sweet and straight way perfectly, in true light, not
looking back for any reason whatever; not walking in our own fashion but
in the fashion of God, enduring sufferings without fault even unto death,
rescuing the soul from the hands of devils. For this is the Way and the
Rule that the Eternal Truth has given thee; and He wrote it on His body,
not with ink, but with His Blood, in letters so big that no one is of such
low intelligence as to be excused from reading. Well thou seest the
initials of that Book, how great they are; and all show the truth of the
Eternal Father, the ineffable love with which we were created--this is the
truth--only that we might share His highest and eternal good. This our
Master is lifted up on high upon the pulpit of the Cross, in order that we
may better study it, and should not deceive ourselves, saying: "He teaches
this to me on earth, and not on high." Not so: for He ascended upon the
Cross, and uplifted there in pain, He seeks to exalt the honour of the
Father, and to restore the beauty of souls. Then let us read heartfelt
love, founded in truth, in this Book of Life. Lose thyself wholly; and the
more thou shalt lose the more thou shalt find; and God will not despise
thy desire. Nay, He will direct thee, and show thee what thou shouldst do;
and will enlighten him to whom thou mightest be subject, if thou dost
according to His counsel. For the soul that prays ought to have a holy
jealousy, and let it always rejoice to do whatever it does with the help
of prayer and counsel.

Thou didst write me, and as I understood from thy letter it seems that
thou art troubled in heart. And this is not a slight feeling; nay, it is
mighty, stronger than any other, when on the one side thou dost feel
thyself called by God in new ways, and His servants put themselves on the
contrary side, saying that this is not well. I have a very great
compassion for thee; for I know not what burden is like that, from the
jealousy the soul has for itself; for it cannot offer resistance to God,
and it would also fulfil the will of His servants, trusting more in their
light and knowledge than in its own; and yet it does not seem able to. Now
I reply to thee simply according to my low and poor sight. Do not make up
thy mind obstinately, but as thou feelest thyself called without thine own
doing, so respond. So, if thou dost see souls in danger, and thou canst
help them, do not close thine eyes, but exert thyself with perfect zeal to
help them, even to death. And never mind about thy past resolutions to
silence or anything else--lest it be said to thee later: "Cursed be thou,
that thou wast silent." Our every principle and foundation is in the love
of God and our neighbour alone; all our other activities are instruments
and buildings placed on this foundation. Therefore thou shouldst not, for
pleasure in the instrument or the building, desert the principal
foundation in the honour of God and the love of our neighbour. Work, then,
my daughter, in that field where thou seest that God calls thee to work;
and do not get distressed or anxious in mind over what I have said to
thee, but endure manfully. Fear and serve God, with no regard to thyself;
and then do not care for what people may say, except to have compassion on

As to the desire thou hast to leave thy house and go to Rome, throw it
upon the will of thy Bridegroom, and if it shall be for His honour and thy
salvation, He will send thee means and the way when thou art thinking
nothing about it, in a way that thou wouldst never have imagined. Let Him
alone, and lose thyself; and beware that thou lose thee nowhere but on the
Cross, and there thou shalt find thyself most perfectly. But this thou
couldst not do without the perfect light; and therefore I said to thee
that I desired to see thee in the true and most perfect light, beyond the
common light we talked of.

Let us sleep no more! Let us wake from the slumber of negligence, groaning
with humble continual prayers, over the mystical Body of Holy Church, and
over the Vicar of Christ! Cease not to pray for him, that Christ may give
him light and fortitude to resist the strokes of incarnate demons, lovers
of themselves, who seek to contaminate our faith. It is a time for

As to my coming thy way, pray the highest eternal Goodness of God to do
what may be for His honour and the salvation of the soul, and pray
especially, for I am on the point of going to Rome, to fulfil the will of
Christ crucified and of His Vicar. I do not know what way I shall take.
Pray Christ sweet Jesus to send us by that way which is most to His
honour, in peace and quiet of our souls. I say no more to thee. Remain in
the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


"To Stefano di Corrado Maconi, her ignorant and most ungrateful son": "To
Stefano Maconi, her most ungrateful and unworthy son, when she was at
Rome": so run the superscriptions to these letters. Doubtless, they headed
copies made by the hand of Stefano himself. We have seen in connection
with Catherine's letters to his mother how constantly after their first
meeting this young disciple had been with her. Long before this, he had
become the best-beloved of the "Famiglia," and next to herself its most
important member. He did not, however, for some reason, accompany her to
Rome, and Catherine's heart yearned over him during the last weary months.
From the first, she had perceived in his frank and joyous temperament the
germs of high spiritual perfection, and had sought to draw him to the
monastic life. "Cut the bonds that hold thee, and do not merely loosen
them," she wrote in one of the first letters to Stefano that we possess:
"Resist no longer the Holy Spirit that is calling thee--for it will be
hard for thee to kick against Him. Do not let thyself be withheld by thine
own lukewarm heart, or by a womanish tenderness for thyself, but be a man,
and enter the battlefield manfully." Stefano, however, despite his
personal devotion to Catherine, felt for a long time no vocation for the
cloister. She continued, as we see in these letters, to urge him with
increasing insistence: but his hesitation was ended only by her death. He
hastened to Rome at the last, urgently summoned, in time to see her living
and to receive her last words. Her dying request did what her entreaties
during life had failed to do; the brilliant young noble became a
Carthusian monk. At a later time he was made General of the Order.
Devotion to the memory of Catherine was the inspiration of his life after
she left him.

The letters in this group were all written after Catherine had reached
Rome. They form a strong contrast to the more formal and elaborate
documents which she was at this time despatching to dignitaries,
concerning the ecclesiastical situation. Their serene spiritual fervour
bears witness to the "central peace" subsisting at the heart of the
"endless agitation" of her active life. In their intimate messages,
moreover, to home friends and disciples, they throw a charming light on
what may be called the domestic side of her character.

In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest son in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the
servants of Jesus Christ, write to thee in His precious Blood: with desire
to see thee a true guardian of the city of thy soul. Oh, dearest son, this
city has many gates! They are three--Memory, Intellect, and Will, and our
Creator allows all of them to be battered, and sometimes opened by
violence, except one--that is, Will. So it happens at times that the
intellect sees nothing but shadows; the memory is occupied with vain and
transitory things, with many and varied reflections and impure thoughts;
and likewise all the sensations of the body are ill-regulated and
ravaging. So it is perfectly clear that no one of these gates is in our
own free possession, except only the Gate of Will. This belongs to our
liberties, and has for its Watch Free-will. And this gate is so strong
that nor demon nor creature can open it if the watch does not consent. And
while this gate is not open--that is, while it does not consent to what
Memory and Intellect and the other gates experience--our city keeps its
free privileges for ever. Let us, then, recognize, my son, let us
recognize so excellent a benefit and so unmeasured a largess of charity as
we have received from the Divine Goodness, that has put us in free
possession of so noble a city.

Let us strive to hold good and zealous watch, keeping at the side of our
Watch Free-will, the dog Conscience, who when anyone comes at the gate
must awake Reason by its barking, that she may discern whether it be
friend or foe: so that the watch may let friends enter, ordering good and
holy inspirations to do their work, and may drive away the foes, locking
the Gate of Will, that it consent not to admit the evil thoughts that come
to the gate every day. And when thy city shall be demanded of thee by the
Lord, thou canst give it up, sound, and adorned with true and royal
virtues, thanks to His grace. I say no more here.

As I wrote on the first day of the month to all the sons in common, we
arrived here on the first Sunday in Advent with much peace. Remain in the
holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.

In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest son in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the
servants of Jesus Christ, write to thee in His precious Blood: with desire
to see thee risen above childishness, and become a manly man; risen from
enjoying the milk of consolations, mental and actual, and set to eat the
hard musty bread of many tribulations in mind and body, of conflicts with
devils and injuries from thy fellows, and of any other kind that God might
be pleased to grant thee. I desire to see thee rejoicing in such, and
hasting to meet them with kindling desire and sweet gratitude to the
divine goodness, when it may please Him to show thee such great gifts--
which will be whenever He shall see thee fit to receive them. Rouse thee,
my son, rouse thee from thy lukewarmness of heart; steep it in the Blood,
that it may burn in the furnace of divine charity, so that it may attain
to abominate all childish deeds, and be on fire to be all manful, to enter
on the battlefield to do great works for Christ crucified, fighting
manfully. For Paul says that none shall be crowned save such as have
manfully fought. So he who sees himself abide away from the Field has
cause for weeping. Now I say no more here.

I had thy letter, and saw it gladly. Concerning the affair of the
Proposal, I reply that thy disposition pleases me much; and we must be
glad of the sweet games that our sweet God plays with His creatures, to
persuade them to the end for which we were all created: so that when the
sweet medicine and ointment of consolations does not help, He sends us
tribulations, cauterizing the wound that it may not suppurate. I will
willingly take pains about thy affair, for the love of God and thy
salvation, as soon as these festivals and holy days are past.

I will try to obtain the Indulgences that thou askest me for with the
first I shall demand. I do not know when--for I have worn out the clerks
of the court. One must hold one's self a little back.

I am writing a letter to Matteo: give it to him. And comfort him, and go
to find him sometimes, to warm him up to the enterprise that is begun. I
have heard of the illness which God has sent ... and, considering his
need, I beg and constrain thee as much as I can that thou and thy brothers
bring it about that the Company of the Virgin Mary give him aid, as much
as thou canst get. Catarina is very much to be pitied, to find herself
alone and poor without any refuge; so be zealous to show this charity. I
am writing of this to Pietro, too. Let me perceive that you have not shown
any negligence.

I say no more to thee. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. All this
family comfort thee in Christ, and be the negligent and ungrateful writer
commended to thee. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.

In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest son in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the
servants of Jesus Christ, write to thee in His precious Blood: with desire
to see thee cut thy bonds, and not simply set thyself to loosening them,
for it takes some time to loosen, and this thou art not sure of having, so
swiftly it passes from thee. It is better, then, to cut them thoroughly,
with a true and holy zeal. Oh, how blessed my soul will be when I shall
see that thou hast cut thyself off from the world in deed and thought, and
from thy own fleshly instincts, and hast united thyself to life eternal: a
union that is of such joy and sweetness and suavity that it quenches all
bitterness and renders light every heavy weight! Who, then, shall hold us
from drawing the sword of hate and love, and cutting self from self with
the hand of free will? As soon as this sword has cut, it is of such virtue
that it unites. But thou wilt say to me, dearest son: "Where is this sword
found and wrought?" I reply to thee, Thou findest it in the cell of self-
knowledge, where thou dost conceive hatred of thine own sin and frailty,
and love of thy Creator and thy neighbour, with true and sincere virtues.
Where is it wrought? In the fire of divine charity, on the anvil of the
Body of the sweet and loving Word, the Son of God. Then ignorant indeed,
and worthy of great rebuke, is he who has weapons in his possession to
defend himself with, and who throws them away.

I do not want thee to be of these ignorant people, but I want thee to
hasten in thy whole manhood, and respond to Mary, who calls thee with
greatest love. The blood of these glorious martyrs, buried here in Rome as
to the body, who gave blood and life with so fiery love for the love of
Life, is hot with longing, summoning thee and the others that you come to
suffer, for glory and praise of the Name of God and Holy Church, and for
the trial of your virtues. For to this Holy Land, wherein God revealed His
dignity, calling it His garden, He has called His servants, saying: "Now
is the time for them to come, to test the gold of virtue." Now let us not
play the deaf man. Were our ears stopped by cold, let us cleanse us in the
Blood, hot because it is mingled with fire, and all deafness shall be
taken away. Hide thee in the Wounds of Christ crucified; flee before the
world, leave thy father's house; flee into the refuge of the Side of
Christ crucified, that thou mayest come to the Land of Promise. This same
thing I say also to Pietro. Place you at the table of the Cross, and
there, refreshed by the Blood, take the food of souls, enduring pains and
shames, insults, ridicule, hunger, thirst, and nakedness: glorying, with
that sweet Paul the Chosen Vessel, in the shame of Christ crucified. If
thou shalt cut thee free, as I said, endurance shall be thy glory,
otherwise not, but it shall be a pain to thee, and thy shadow will make
thee afraid.

My soul, considering this, as an hungered for thy salvation. I desire to
see thee cut thyself free, and not set thyself to loosen, that thou mayest
run thee more swiftly. Clothe thee in the Blood of Christ crucified. I say
no more to thee. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God.

I had thy letters, and had great consolation from them, over Battista's
being healed, because I have hope that he will yet be a good plant, and
for the compassion I felt for Monna Giovanna. But I rejoiced very much
more that God has sent thee a way of extricating thyself from the world,
and also over the good disposition of which thou writest me, that the
Lords and our other citizens have toward our sweet "Babbo," Pope Urban VI.
May God by His infinite mercy preserve it, and increase ever their
reverence and obedience toward him. While thou and the others shall be
there, be zealous to sow the truth and confound falsehood as far as your
power extends.

Commend me closely to Monna Giovanna and Currado. Comfort also Battista
and the rest of the family. Comfort all those sons of mine, and tell them
also particularly to pardon me if I do not write to them, because it seems
somewhat difficult. Comfort Messer Matteo: tell him to send us word of
what he wants, first, because I have forgotten it, and Fra Raimondo went
away so soon that we could not get it from him. Then I will zealously do
all I can. And tell Frate Tommaso that I do not write to him because I do
not know whether he is there, but if he is there, comfort him, and tell
him to give me his blessing. Our Lisa and all the family commend
themselves to thee. Neri does not write thee because he has been at the
point of death; but now he is cured.

May God give thee His sweet eternal blessing. Tell Pietro to come here if
he can, for something that is of importance. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love!

Give all these letters, or have them given. And pray God for us. As to
these few letters bound by themselves, give them just as they are to Monna
Catarina di Giovanni, and let her distribute them.

In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest son in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the
servants of Jesus Christ, write to thee in His precious Blood: with desire
to see thee arise from the lukewarmness of thy heart, lest thou be spewed
from the mouth of God, hearing this rebuke, "Cursed are ye, the lukewarm!
Would you had at least been ice-cold!" This lukewarmness proceeds from
ingratitude, which comes from a faint light that does not let us see the
agonizing and utter love of Christ crucified, and the infinite benefits
received from Him. For in truth, did we see them, our heart would burn
with the flame of love, and we should be famished for time, using it with
great zeal for the honour of God and the salvation of souls. To this zeal
I summon thee, dearest son, that now we begin to work anew.

I send thee a letter that I am writing to the Lords, and one to the
Company of the Virgin Mary. See and understand them, and then give them;
and then ... And talk to them fully concerning this matter that is
contained in the letters, begging each of them, on behalf of Christ
crucified and me, that they deal zealously, just so far as they can, with
the Lords and whoever has to do with it, that the right thing may be done
in regard to Holy Church, and the Vicar of Christ, Urban VI. It weighs
upon me very much, for my part, that it should please them to have
confidence in this matter, for the honour of God, and the spiritual and
temporal profit of the city. Do thou be fervent and not tepid in this
activity, and in quickening thy brothers and elders of the Company to do
all they may in the affair of which I write. If you are what you ought to
be, you will set fire to all Italy, and not only yonder.

I say no more to thee. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Comfort
... all these, thy brothers, and thy sister, comfort thee in Christ, and
all are waiting for thee. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


From early years, Catherine had cherished the simple-hearted desire that
the affairs of Christ's people be put in the hands of His truest
followers. Now, in this last period of her life, surrounded by the
corruption and intrigue of the papal court, her thoughts turned more and
more wistfully to the reserves of spiritual passion and insight that
lingered in the hearts of obscure "servants of God" living in monasteries
or in hermits' cells.

To invite these holy men to Rome--to gather them around Urban, and so show
by triumphant witness of those in nearest fellowship with God on which
side lay God's truth--was doubtless the political idea of a very unworldly
saint. Nevertheless, it commended itself to the Pope. At his request,
then, though probably by her own suggestion, Catherine wrote to sundry of
those eremites with whom she had long held spiritual converse, summoning
them to the Holy City. Her letters were a thrilling call to the champions
of Christ, to cast off timidity and indolence, and betake them swiftly to
the field where difficulties and troubles, and it might be a martyr's
death, was waiting them.

In the third of the letters that follow, Catherine gives a touching
picture of two bewildered hermits--Dominican "dogs of the lord" from the
gentle Umbrian plain--who obeyed the call. "Old men, and far from well,
who have lived such a long time in their peace," they have made the
laborious journey, and are now valiantly suppressing their homesickness,
and unsaying their involuntary complaints. But not all the hermits
summoned were equally docile. Visionary raptures could hardly be looked
for in the streets of the metropolis: dear was the seclusion of wood and
cell. Father William Flete, whom Catherine had always persisted in
admiring, despite his failings, flatly declined to stir; so did his
comrade, Brother Antonio. The Abbot of St. Antimo, another person for whom
she had always entertained a deep respect, although he came, appears from
her letters to have played the part of a coward.

We cannot be surprised if peaceable Religious who had lived their long
days in unbroken quiet objected to enter the unpleasant whirlpool of Roman
politics. A similar attitude on the part of eremites of culture is not
unknown to-day. But their refusal was a blow to Catherine. She could
hardly have drawn the natural conclusion that a recluse life unfitted men
to fight for practical righteousness, but she did feel deeply troubled.
From early youth she had been, as we have repeatedly seen, alive to the
dangers of selfishness and indolence peculiarly incident to the
contemplative life; at the same time she had firmly believed that, did the
flame of intercession only burn bright enough, this life might be
profoundly sacrificial. Now her best-beloved recluses did not stand the
test in the hour of trial, and their naif egotism disappointed her
unspeakably. Her grief, her amaze, her all but scathing contempt for a
religion that declined to forego its inward comforts even at the dramatic
summons of a crisis in the Church, find expression in these letters.
Doubtless the "great refusal" thus offered by men whom she had trusted
helped to darken her last months. Not even in the hearts of her intimates,
not even among the elect of God, was Catherine to find here on earth a
continuing city.


In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest sons in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the
servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood: with desire
to see you so lose yourselves that you shall seek nor peace nor quiet
elsewhere than in Christ crucified, becoming an-hungered upon the table of
the Cross, for the honour of God, the salvation of souls, and the
reformation of Holy Church, whom to-day we see in so great need that to
help her one must come out from one's wood and renounce one's self. If one
sees that he can bear fruit in her, it is no time to stay still nor to
say, "I should forfeit my peace." For now that God has given us the grace
of providing Holy Church with a good and just shepherd, who delights in
the servants of God, and wishes them near him, and expects to be able to
purify the Church and uproot vices and plant virtues, without any fear of
man, since he bears himself like a just and manly man, we others ought to
help him. I shall perceive whether we have in truth conceived love for the
reformation of Holy Church; for if it is really so, you will follow the
will of God and of His Vicar, will come out of your wood, and make haste
to enter the battlefield. But if you do not do it, you will be in discord
with the will of God. Therefore I pray you, by the love of Christ
crucified, that you respond swiftly without delay to the request that the
Holy Father makes of you. And do not hesitate because of not having a
wood, for there are woods and forests here. Up, dearest sons, and sleep no
more, for it is time to watch! I say no more to you. Remain in the holy
and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love! In Rome, on the fifteenth
day of December, 1378.


In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest fathers in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of
the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood: with
desire to see you eager and ready to do the will of God, in obedience to
His Vicar, Pope Urban VI., in order that by you and the other servants of
God help may be brought to His sweet Bride. For we see her in such bitter
straits that she is attacked on every side by contrary winds; and you see
that she is especially attacked by wicked men, lovers of themselves, by
the perilous and evil wind of heresy and schism, which can contaminate our
faith. Was she ever in so great a need as now, when those who ought to
help her have attacked her, and darkness is shed abroad by those whose
task it is to enlighten? They should nourish us with the food of souls,
ministering the Blood of Christ crucified which gives the life of grace;
and they drag it from men's mouths, ministering eternal death, like wolves
who feed not the flock, but devour them. And what shall the dogs do--the
servants of God, who are placed in the world as guardians, that they may
bark when they see the wolf come, to awaken the chief shepherd? What are
they to bark with? With humble and continual prayer, and with the living
voice. In this way they shall terrify the demons, visible and invisible,
and the heart and mind of our chief Shepherd, Pope Urban VI., shall
awaken; and when he shall be wakened, we do not doubt that the mystical
body of Holy Church and the universal body of the Christian religion shall
be helped, and the flock recovered, and saved from the hands of devils.
You ought not to draw back for any reason: not for suffering that you
expected, nor for shames nor persecution, nor ridicule that might be cast
at you; not for hunger, thirst, or death a thousand times were it
possible; not for desire of quiet, nor of your consolations, saying: "I
wish my soul's peace, and I can cry out in prayer before the face of God
(without going to Rome)"; nay, by the love of Christ crucified. For it is
not now the hour to seek one's self for one's self, nor to flee pains in
order to possess consolations; nay, it is the hour to lose one's self,
since the Infinite Goodness and Mercy of God has seen to the necessity of
Holy Church, and given her a just and good shepherd, who wishes to have
these dogs around him, which shall bark constantly for the honour of God;
fearing lest he sleep, and not trusting in his vigil, unless they are
always ready to bark to waken him. You are among those whom he has chosen.
Therefore I beg and constrain you in Christ sweet Jesus, that you come
swiftly, to fulfil the will of God, who wills thus, and the holy will of
the Vicar of Christ, that is calling you and the others.

You need not be afraid of luxuries or of great consolations; for you are
coming to endure, and not to enjoy yourselves, except with the joy of the
Cross. Lean your head out, and come forth into the Field, to fight
genuinely for truth; holding before the eye of your mind the persecution
wrought to the Blood of Christ, and the damnation of souls; in order that
we may be more inspired for the battle, so that we may look back for no
possible cause. Come, come! and do not linger, waiting for the hour, for
the hour does not wait us. I am sure that the Infinite Goodness of God
will make you know the truth. And yet I know that many, even among those
who are servants of God, will go to you and oppose this holy and good
work, thinking to speak well, in saying: "You will go, and nothing will be
done." And I, like a presumptuous woman, say that something will be done;
if our principal desire is not now to be fulfilled, at least the way will
be cleared. And even if nothing at all should be done, we have shown in
the sight of God and our fellow-men that we have done what we could; our
own conscience has been aroused and unburdened. So that it is well in any
case. The more opposition you shall have, the clearer sign it is to you
that this is a good and holy work; since as we have seen, and continue to
see constantly, great, holy, and good works meet more opposition than
little ones, because they have larger results; and therefore the devil
hinders them in every way he can, especially by means of the servants of
God, through obscure deceits, under colour of virtue. I have said this to
you in order that you should not give up coming for any reason, but should
present yourselves with prompt obedience at the feet of his Holiness.

Drown you in the Blood of Christ, and may our own will die in all things.
I say no more to you. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Commend
me to all the servants of God near you, that they may pray the Divine
Goodness to give me grace to lay down my life for His Truth. Sweet Jesus,
Jesus Love.


In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest son in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the
servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood: with desire
to see you founded upon the Living Rock, Christ sweet Jesus, so that the
building you shall raise on it may never be overthrown by any contrary
wind that may strike you, but may endure wholly solid, firm, and stable,
even till your death upon the Way of Truth. Oh, how we need this true and
royal foundation--not known of my ignorance! for did I truly know it, I
should not build upon myself, who am worse than sand, but upon that Living
Rock I spoke of. Following Christ upon the way of shame and outrage and
insult, I should deprive me of every consolation from whatever source,
within or without, to conform myself with Him. I would not seek myself for
my own sake, but would care only for the honour of God, the salvation of
souls, and the reform of Holy Church, whom I see in so great need! Me
miserable, who am doing quite the contrary! But though I do wrong, dearest
son, I would not that you and the others did; nay, I desire to see you
founded on this Rock. Now the hour is come that proves who is a servant of
God, and whether men shall seek themselves for their own sake, and God for
the private consolation they find in Him, and their neighbours for their
own sake in so far as they see consolations in them--yes, or no, and
whether we are to believe that God may be found only in one place and not
in another. I do not see that this is so--but find that to the true
servant of God every place is the right place and every time is the right
time. So when the time comes to abandon his own consolations and embrace
labours for the honour of God, he does it; and when the time comes to flee
the wood for need of the honour of God, he does it, and betakes him to
public places, as did the blessed St. Antony, who although he supremely
loved solitude, yet deserted it many times to comfort the Christians. And
so I might tell of many other saints. This has always been the habit of
the true servants of God, to emerge in time of need and adversity, but not
in the time of prosperity--nay, that they flee. There is no need to flee
just now, through fear lest our great prosperity make our hearts sail away
in the wind of pride and vainglory; for there is no one who can glory now
otherwise than in labours. But light seems to be failing us, dazzled as we
are by our consolations and the hope we place in special revelations--
things which do not let us know the truth rightly, though we act in good
faith. But God, who is highest and eternal Goodness, gives us perfect and
true light. I enlarge no more on this matter.

It appears, from the letter which Brother William has sent me, that
neither he nor you is coming here. I do not intend to reply to this
letter: but I grieve much over his simplicity, for little honour to God or
edification to his neighbour results from it. For if he is unwilling to
come from humility and fear of forfeiting his peace, he ought to exercise
the virtue of humility, by asking permission from the Vicar of Christ
humbly and with gentleness, entreating his Holiness graciously to permit
him to stay in his wood, for his greater peace, nevertheless, as one truly
obedient, submitting the matter to his will. Thus he would be more
pleasing to God, and would secure his own good. But he seems to have done
just the contrary, alleging that a person who is bound to divine obedience
ought not to obey his fellow-creatures. As to other people, I should care
very little; but that he should include the Vicar of Christ, this does
grieve me much, to see him so discordant with truth. For divine obedience
never prevents us from obedience to the Holy Father: nay, the more perfect
the one, the more perfect is the other. And we ought always to be subject
to his commands and obedient unto death. However indiscreet obedience to
him might seem, and however it should deprive us of mental peace and
consolation, we ought to obey; and I consider that to do the opposite is a
great imperfection, and deceit of the devil. It appears from what he
writes that two servants of God have had a great revelation, to the effect
that Christ on earth, and whoever advised him to send for these servants
of God, followed human and not divine counsel, and that it was rather the
instigation of the devil than the inspiration of God that made them wish
to drag their servants from their peace and consolations: adding that if
you and the others came you would lose your spiritual life, and thus would
be of no help in prayer, and unable to stand by the Holy Father in spirit.
Now really, the spiritual life is quite too lightly held if it is lost by
change of place. Apparently God is an acceptor of places, and is found
only in a wood, and not elsewhere in time of need! Then what shall we say
--we who, on the one hand, wish that the Church of God be reformed, the
thorns uprooted, and the fragrant flowers the servants of God planted
there; and, on the other hand, we are told that to send for them, and drag
them from their mental peace and quiet in order that they may come to help
that little Ship is a wile of the devil? At least, let a man speak for
himself, and not speak of the other servants of God--for among the
servants of the world we are not to count ourselves. Not thus have done
Brother Andrea of Lucca, nor Brother Paolina, those great servants of God,
old men and far from well, who have lived such a long time in their peace:
but at once, with all their weariness and disabilities they put themselves
on the road, and have come, and fulfilled their obedience: and although
desire constrains them to return to their cells, they are not therefore
willing to throw off the yoke, but say: "What I have said, be it unsaid!"
--disregarding their self-will and their personal consolations. One comes
here to endure: not for honours, but for the dignity of many labours, with
tears, vigils and continual prayers; thus should one do. Now let us not
weigh ourselves down with more words. May God by His mercy send us clear
vision, and guide us in the way of truth, and give us true and perfect
light, that we may never walk among shadows. I beg you, you and the
Bachellor, and the other servants of God, to pray the Humble Lamb that He
make me walk in His Way. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet
Jesus, Jesus Love.


Giovanna, recalcitrant, has failed to respond to the entreaties of
Catherine. Her temporary espousal of the cause of Urban has made only more
painful her reversion to the side of Clement. "You see your subjects
pitted against each other like beasts through this unhappy division,"
writes Catherine in another letter. "Oh me! how is it that your heart does
not burst, to endure that they should be divided by you, and one hold to
the white rose and one the red, one to truth and one to falsehood?
Misfortunate my soul! Do you not see that they are all created in that
very pure rose, the eternal will of God, and re-created by grace in that
very burning rose, crimson with the Blood of Christ, in which we were
washed from sin in Baptism? Consider that nor you nor another ever so
bathed them or gave them that glorious rose, but only our Mother, Holy
Church, through the highest Pontiff who holds the keys, Pope Urban VI. How
can your soul bear to take from them that which you cannot give? If this
does not move you, are you not at least moved by the shame into which you
are fallen in the sight of the world? This much more since your change
than before; for lately you confessed the truth and your wrong, and showed
yourself willing to throw yourself like a daughter upon the mercy of your
father; and since then you have wrought worse than ever, whether because
your heart was not pure, and feigned what was not there, or because
justice willed that I should anew do penance for my ancient sins, that I
do not merit to see you in peace and quiet, feeding at the breasts of Holy
Church. It is such a pain to me, that I cannot bear a greater cross in
this life, when I consider the letter which I received from you, in which
you confessed that Pope Urban was the true highest father and priest, and
said that you were willing to be obedient to him, and now I find the

In the present letter Catherine pours forth to the yet living woman a
sorrowful elegy over the dead soul. She argues no longer; the political
aspect of the situation is for the time being overshadowed by the grief
with which she contemplates the hardened sin and coming doom of the woman
to whom her heart had from her youth up gone out with an especial
tenderness, and in whom she had hoped at one time to see a true Defender
of the Faith. It will be noticed that she writes in trance. Whatever may
have been the nature of that mysterious state, we may be sure that
thoughts then uttered came from the depths of her being which lie below
consciousness, and we may so gain an additional evidence of the intensity
of her feeling concerning Giovanna.

In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest mother in Christ sweet Jesus: I, Catherine, servant and slave of
the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood, with
desire to see you compassionate to your own soul and body. For if we are
not merciful to our own souls, the mercy and pity of others would avail us
little. The soul treats itself with great cruelty when of its own accord
it puts the knife with which it can be killed in the hands of its foe. For
our foes have no weapons with which they can hurt us. They would be very
glad to, but they cannot, because will alone can hurt us; and as for the
will, neither demon nor creature can move it, nor force it to one least
fault more than it chooses. So the perverse will which consents to the
malice of our foes is a knife which kills the soul that gives it into the
hand of these foes with its own free choice. Which shall we call the more
cruel--the foes or the very person who receives the blow? It is we who are
more cruel, for we consent to our own death.

We have three chief foes. First, the devil, who is weak if I do not make
him strong by consenting to his malice. He loses his strength in the power
of the Blood of the humble and spotless Lamb. The world with all its
honours and delights, which is our foe, is also weak, save in so far as we
strengthen it to hurt us by possessing these things with intemperate love.
In the gentleness, humility, poverty, in the shame and disgrace of Christ
crucified, this tyrant the world is destroyed. Our third foe, our own
frailty, was made weak; but reason strengthens it by the union which God
has made with our humanity, arraying the Word with our humanity, and by
the death of that sweet and loving Word, Christ crucified. So we are
strong, and our foes are weak.

It is very true, then, that we are more cruel to ourselves than our foes
are. For without our help they cannot kill nor hurt us, since God has not
given them to us that we might be vanquished, but that we might vanquish
them. Then our fortitude and constancy are proved. But I do not see that
we can avoid such cruelty and become merciful without the light of most
holy faith, opening the eye of the mind to behold how displeasing it is to
God and harmful to soul and body, and how pleasing to God and useful to
our salvation is mercy.

Dearest mother--mother I say in so far as I see you to be a faithful
daughter of Holy Church--it seems to me that you have no mercy on
yourself. Oh me! oh me! because I love you I grieve over the evil state of
your soul and body. I would willingly lay down my life to prevent this
cruelty. Many times I have written you in compassion, showing you that
what is shown you for truth is a lie; and the rod of divine justice, which
is ready for you if you do not flee so great wrong. It is a human thing to
sin, but perseverance in sin is a thing of the devil. Oh me! there is none
who tells you the truth, nor do you seek among the servants of God those
who might tell it you, that you should not stay in a state of
condemnation. Oh, how blessed my soul would be could I come into your
parts, and lay down my life to restore to you the good of heaven and the
good of earth; to take from you the knife of cruelty, with which you have
killed yourself, and help to give you that of mercy, which kills vice; so
that you should clothe you in the holy fear of God and love of truth, and
bind you in His sweet will!

Oh me, do not await the time which you are not sure of having! Do not
choose that my eyes should have to shed rivers of tears over your wretched
soul and body--a soul which I hold as my own! If I consider that soul, I
see that it is dead, because separated from its body; it persecutes, not
Pope Urban VI., but our truth and faith. I expected, mother and daughter
mine, as you used to write to me, that through you these should be spread
among the infidels by means of divine grace, and declared and helped among
us, defended when we should see a taint appear, from those who have been
or were contaminated. Now I see quite the contrary appear in you, through
the evil counsel which has been given you for my sins. You have received
it as one merciless toward your salvation; and I see that there will be no
human creature who can restore your loss, but you yourself must render
this account before the highest Judge. You did not offend through
ignorance, not knowing the right, for the truth was shown to you; but you
do not know how to turn back from that which you have begun, because the
knife of perverse and selfish will destroys knowledge and choice, making
you hold that as shame which is your greatest honour. For perseverance in
fault and in such an evil is greatest disgrace, and displays one as a sign
of shame before the eyes of one's fellow-creatures; but to escape from
them is greatest honour; and by honour and the odour of virtue, shame is
escaped and the stench of vice extinguished.

And if I consider your condition as to those temporal and transitory goods
that pass like the wind--you yourself have deprived yourself of them by
right. You have only to receive the last sentence of being deprived of
them by deed, and published a heretic. My heart breaks and cannot break,
from the fear that I have lest the devil so obscure the eye of your mind
that you endure that loss, and such shame and confusion as I should repute
greater than the loss that you would suffer. And you cannot hide it with
saying, "This would be done to me unjustly, and the thing which is
unjustly inflicted casts no shame." That cannot be said; for it would be
done justly, both because of the fault you have committed, and because he
can do it as highest and true pontiff that he is, chosen by the Truth in
truth. For were he not so, you would not have offended. So that it would
be just. But he has refrained from doing this through love, as a benignant
father who waits for his son to correct himself. Yet I fear that he may do
it, constrained by justice, and by your long perseverance in evil. And I
do not say this as one who does not know what she is saying.

And if you said to me, "I do not care about this, for I am strong and
mighty, and I have other lords who will help me, and I know that he is
weak"--I reply to you that he wearies himself in vain who will guard the
city with force and with great zeal, if God guard it not. And can you say
that you have God with you? We cannot say it, for you have put Him against
you for putting yourself against truth; you have put you against Him, and
it is truth that sets him free who holds thereto, and none there is who
can confound it. Therefore you have reason to fear, and not to trust in
your strength and power, had you yet more of them than you have. And he
has reason to comfort his weakness in Christ sweet Jesus, whose place he
holds, trusting in His strength and aid, who shall send him aid from such
a side as we cannot imagine. And you know that if God is for you, none
shall be against you.

Then let us fear God, and tremble beneath the rod of His justice. Let us
correct us, and advance no further. Be merciful to yourself, and you shall
call down the mercy of God upon you. Have compassion on the many souls who
are perishing through you; of whom you will have to render account before
God at the last extremity of death. There is yet healing for us, and time
wherein we can return; and He will receive you with great benignity. I am
sure that if you will be merciful and not cruel to your soul and also to
your body, you will do this, and will have pity upon your subjects: in
otherwise, no. Therefore I said that I desired to see you merciful and not
cruel to your soul. And thus I pray you, through the love of Christ
crucified, that at least you hold and will to be held, the truth which was
announced to you and to the other lords of the world. And if you should
say, "It is still doubtful to me," stay neutral till it is made clear to
you, and do not do what you should not. Desire illumination and counsel
from those whom you see to fear God, and not from members of the devil,
who would counsel you ill in that which they do not hold for themselves.
Fear, fear God, and place Him before your eyes, and think that God sees
you, and His eye is upon you, and His justice wills that every fault be
punished and every good rewarded. Be merciful, ah, be merciful to
yourself! I say naught else to you. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of
God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


In more grievous ways than any yet noted, Catherine was to be wounded in
the house of her friends. The letters already given have shown us how
tenderly intimate, on the human as well as on the spiritual side, were her
relations with the father of her soul, "given her by that sweet mother,
Mary." One shares her affection for good Father Raimondo as one reads the
legend. His figure might well have belonged to the trecento rather than to
the more strenuous age that followed. He was the simplest, the most modest
of men--albeit by no means lacking in homely shrewdness; he was also one
of the least heroic. Catherine, like most uplifted natures, demanded
heroism from those dear to her, as a matter of course. Others wish for
their beloved ease, delights, the gratification of ambition and desire;
Catherine sought for them sorrow, hardships, the opportunity to offer
their lives in exalted sacrifice for the sins of the Church and the world.
She craved for them only less passionately than for herself, the crowning
grace of martyrdom. Now Fra Raimondo had no affinity whatever for
martyrdom. His chance at it came, in the fortunes of those stern times,
and was promptly rejected. Urban, perhaps at Catherine's instigation, had
despatched him to the King of France, and Raimondo had bidden his
spiritual daughter and mother a solemn farewell, surmising doubtless that
he was to see her face no more. He proceeded to the port of Genoa,
planning thence to set sail for France. But the galleys of the antipope
sought to debar the passage; and Raimondo, accepting the obstacle (one
imagines with much ease), allowed himself to give up the expedition.

Catherine wrote him two letters on the matter. The first is brief, and
half-playful in tone: "Oh my naughty father" (_cativello padre mio_) she
says, "How blessed your soul and mine would have been could you have
sealed with your blood a stone in Holy Church! I do wish I could see you
risen above your childishness--see you shed your milk teeth and eat bread,
the mustier the better!" Evidently Raimondo had answered this letter,
writing, one imagines, in a deprecating tone, fearing lest Catherine may
love him the less for his failure, yet after all assuming--so strong is
our expectation of finding our own attitude in our friends--that she will
rejoice in his escape. In this her reply she tells her whole heart.
Surely, few more pathetic revelations of disappointed yet faithful
affection have drifted to us on the tide of the ages. Catherine was at
this time far advanced upon her own Via Dolorosa. One of the stations of
her sorrow had been the parting with her friend: "And you have left me
here, and have gone away with God." Here was another station, marked by a
deeper pain: "Faithful obedience would have done more in the sight of God
and men than all human prudence; my sins have prevented me from seeing it
in you." With a glad suffering she had given Raimondo up to the service of
God; with a suffering that was bitterly shamed, she saw him false to his
calling. She utters no vain reproaches. In her own way she begins with
earnest self-accusations, and proceeds to comfort the weakness of the man
who should have been her guide with tender and subtly-reasoned assurances
of her unchanged affection. At the same time she does not flinch from
uncondoning, scathing statement of his sin and of her disillusion.
Considerate, delicate, even courteous to a degree, the letter yet reveals
in every line the sense of solitude which the action of Raimondo had
caused her. There is no rebellion in her spirit: "I hold me none the less
in peace, because I am certain that nothing happens without mystery," she
sighs. But we grieve with a new, awestruck perception of the loneliness of
her great soul, as we realize that to Raimondo was to be given perforce
her deepest confidence in the passion upon which she was even now

In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest father in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of
the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood: with
desire to see in you the light of most holy faith. This is a light which
shows us the way of truth, and without it no activity, or desire, or work
of ours would come to fruition, or to the end for which we began it; but
everything would become imperfect--slow we should be in the love of God
and of our neighbour. This is the reason: seemingly love is as great as
faith, and faith is as great as love. He who loves is always faithful to
him whom he loves, and faithfully serves him till death. By this I
perceive that in truth I do not love God, nor the creatures through God:
for if in truth I loved Him, I should be faithful in such wise that I
should give myself to death a thousand times a day, were it needful and
possible, for the glory and praise of His Name, and faith would not fail
me, since for the love of God and of virtue and of Holy Church I should
set myself to endure. So I should believe that God was my help and my
defender, as He was of those glorious martyrs who went with gladness to
the place of martyrdom. Were I faithful I should not fear, but I should
hold for sure that the same God is for me who was for them; and His power
to provide for my necessities is not weakened as to capacity, knowledge,
or will. But because I do not love, I do not really trust myself to Him,
but the sensuous fear in me shows me that love is lukewarm, and the light
of faith is darkened by faithlessness toward my Creator, and by trusting
in myself. I confess and deny not that this root of evil is not yet
uprooted from my soul, and therefore those works are hindered which God
wants to do or puts in my way, so that they do not reach the lucid and
fruitful end for which God had them begun. Ah me, ah me, my Lord! Woe to
me miserable! And shall I find myself thus every time, in every place, and
in every state? Shall I always close with my faithlessness the way to Thy
providence? Yes, truly, if indeed Thou by Thy mercy do not unmake me, and
make me anew. Then, Lord, unmake me, and break the hardness of my heart,
that I be not a tool which spoils Thy works!

And I beg you, dearest father, to pray earnestly that I and you both
together may drown ourselves in the Blood of the humble Lamb, which will
make us strong and faithful. We shall feel the fire of the divine charity:
we shall be co-workers with His grace, and not undoers or spoilers of it.
So we shall show that we are faithful to God, and trust in His help, and
not in our knowledge nor in that of men.

With this same faith we shall love the creature; for as love of the
neighbour proceeds from love of God, so with faith, in general and in
particular; as there is a general faith corresponding to the love which we
ought to feel in general to every creature, so there is a special faith
belonging to those who love one another more intimately: like this, which
beyond the common love has established between us two a close particular
love, a love which faith manifests. So much love does it manifest that it
cannot believe nor imagine that one of us wishes anything else than the
other's good; and it believes earnestly, for it seeks this with great
insistence in the sight of God and men, seeking ever in the other the
glory of the name of God and the profit of his soul; constraining Divine
Help, that as it adds burdens it may add fortitude and long perseverance.
Such faith bears he who loves, and never lessens it for any reason,
neither for speech of man nor illusion of the devil, nor change of place.
If anyone does otherwise, it is a sign that he loves God and his neighbour

Apparently, as I understood by your letter, many diverse battles befell
you, and troubled reflections, through the deceit of the devil and through
your own sensuous passion, it seeming to you that a burden was imposed on
you greater than you can bear. You did not seem to yourself strong enough
for me to measure you with my measure, and on this account you were in
doubt lest my affection and love to you were diminished. But you did not
see aright, and it was you who showed that I had grown to love more, and
you less; for with the love with which I love myself, with that I love
you, in the lively faith that all which is lacking on your part, God will
complete by His goodness. But this is not done yet, for you have known how
to find ways to throw your load down to earth. You present us many scraps
of excuses to cover up your faithless frailty, but not in such wise that I
do not see it quite enough now, and good it will seem to me if it is not
perceived by anyone but me. Yes, yes, I show you a love increased in me
toward you, and not waning. But what shall I say? How could your ignorance
give place to one of the least of those thoughts? Could you ever believe
that I wished anything else than the life of your soul? Where is the faith
that you always used to have and ought to have, and the certainty that you
have had, that before a thing is done, it is seen and determined in the
sight of God--not only this, which is so great a deed, but every least
thing? Had you been faithful, you would not have gone about vacillating
so, nor fallen into fear toward God and toward me; but like a faithful
son, ready for obedience, you would have gone and done what you could. And
if you could not have gone upright, you would have gone on all fours; if
you could not have gone as a Frate, you would have gone as a pilgrim; if
there is no money for us, one would have gone begging. This faithful
obedience would have accomplished more in the sight of God and in the
hearts of men than all human prudences. My sins have prevented me from
seeing it in you.

Nevertheless I am quite sure, that although selfish passion was there, you
yet had and have holy and good regard to fulfil better the will of God and
that of Christ on earth, Pope Urban VI. Not that I would have had you
stay, though; nay, but take to the road at once, in whatever fashion and
by whatever way had been open to you. Day and night I was constrained by
God concerning many other things also; which, through the carelessness of
him who has to do them, but chiefly through my sins which hinder every
good, are all coming to nothing. And thus, ah me! we see ourselves
drowning, and offences against God increasing, with many torments; and I
live in an agony of delay. May God, in His mercy, soon take me from this
life of shadows!

We see in the kingdom of Naples that this last disaster is worse than the
first; and so many evils are likely to happen there, that may God remedy
them! But He in His pity showed the disaster, and the remedies that ought
to be applied. But, as I said, the abundance of my faults hinders all
good. I shall have a great deal to say to you about these matters, should
I not receive the greatest grace, that of release from earth before I see
you again.

Yes, as I say, I do entirely wish that you had gone. Nevertheless I hold
me in peace, because I am certain that nothing happens without mystery;
and also because I unburdened my conscience, doing what I could that a
messenger should be sent to the King of France. May the clemency of the
Holy Spirit achieve it! For we by ourselves are bad workmen.

As for going quickly to the King of Hungary, it is clear that the Holy
Father would be well enough pleased, and he had planned that you should go
with other companions. Now, I do not know why, he has changed his mind,
and wishes you to stay where you are, and do what good you can. I beg you
to be zealous about it.

Abandon yourself, and every personal pleasure and consolation; and let
turfs be thrown upon those who are dead, and with the cords of humble
desire and holy prayer let the hands of divine justice be bound, the
devil, and fleshly appetite. We are offered dead in the garden of Holy
Church, and to Christ on earth, the lord of that garden. Then let us do
the works of the dead. The dead man does not see nor hear nor feel. Be
strong to slay yourself with the knife of hate and love, that you may not
hear the derision, the insults, the reproaches of the world, which the
persecutors of Holy Church would offer you. Let not your eyes see things
as impossible to do, nor the torment that may follow; but let them see
with the light of faith that through Christ crucified you can do all
things, and that God will not impose a greater burden than can be borne.
Why, we are to rejoice in great burdens, because then God gives us the
gift of fortitude. With the love of endurance, fleshly sensitiveness is
lost; and thus dead, dead, we may nourish ourselves in this garden. When I
see this, I shall account my soul as blessed. I tell you, sweetest father,
that whether we will or no, the times to-day summon us to die. Then be no
more alive! End pains in pain, and increase the joy of holy desire in the
pain; that our life may pass no otherwise than in crucified desire, and
that we may give our bodies willingly to be eaten by beasts; that is, for
the love of virtue let us willingly fling ourselves upon the tongues and
hands of bestial men, as did those others who have worked, dead, in this
sweet garden, and watered it with their blood, but first with their tears
and sweats. And I--(grievous my life!)--because I have not given enough
water to it, was refused permission to give it my blood. I will it to be
no more thus, but be our life renewed and the fire of desire increased!

You ask me to pray the Divine Goodness to give you the fire of Vincent, of
Lawrence, and of sweet Paul, and that of the charming John--saying that
then you will do great things. And so I shall be glad. Surely I say the
truth, that without this fire you would not do anything, neither little
nor big, nor should I be glad in you.

Therefore, considering that it is so, and that I have seen it proved, an
impulse has grown in me, with great zeal in the sweet sight of God. Were
you near me in the body, truly I would show you that it is so, and would
give you other than words. I rejoice, and I want you to rejoice; for,
since this desire grows, He will fulfil it in you and me, because He
accepts holy and true desires; provided that you open the eye of your mind
in the light of holiest faith, that you may know the truth of the will of
God. Knowing it you will love it, and loving it you will be faithful, and
your heart will not be overshadowed by any wile of the devil. Being
faithful, you will do every great thing in God: what He puts into your
hands will be fulfilled perfectly; that is, it will not be hindered on
your part from coming to perfection. With this light you will be cautious,
modest, and weighty in speech and conversation and in all your works and
way; but without it you would do quite the contrary in your ways and
habits, and everything else would turn out contrary for you.

So, knowing that this is the case, I desired to see in you the light of
most holy faith; and so I want you to have it. And because I want this,
and love you immeasurably for your salvation, and desire with great desire
to see you in the state of the perfect, therefore I pray you with many
words--but I would do so more willingly in deed; and I use reproaches with
you, in order that you may return continually to yourself. I have done my
best, and I shall do so, to make you assume the burden of the perfect for
the honour of God, and ask His goodness to make you reach the last state
of perfection; that is, to shed your blood for Holy Church, whether your
servant the flesh will it or no. Lose you in the Blood of Christ
crucified, and bear my faults and words with good patience. And whenever
your faults may be shown you, rejoice, and thank the Divine Goodness,
which has assigned someone to labour over you, who watches for you in His

As to what you write me, that antichrist and his members seek diligently
to have you, do not fear; for God is strong to take away their light and
their force, that they may not fulfil their desires. Beside, you ought to
think that you are not worthy of so great a good, and so you need not
fear. Take confidence; for sweet Mary and the Truth will be for you

I, vile slave, who am placed in the Field, where blood was shed for the
love of Blood--(and you have left me here, and gone away with God)--shall
never pause from working for you. I beg you so to do that you give me no
matter for mourning, nor for shaming me in the sight of God. As you are a
man in promising the will to do and bear for the honour of God, do not
then turn into a woman when we come to the shutting of the lock; for I
should appeal against you to Christ crucified and to Mary. Beware lest it
happen later to you as to the abbot of St. Antimo, who, through fear and
under colour of not tempting God, left Siena and came to Rome, supposing
that he had escaped his prison and was safe; and he was thrown into
prison, with the punishment that you know. So are pusillanimous hearts
cured. Be, then, be all a man: that death may be granted you.

I beg you to pardon me whatever I might have said that was not honour to
God and due reverence to yourself: let love excuse it. I say no more to
you. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. I ask your benediction.
Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love!


This is the last letter to Urban that we possess. If, as seems likely, it
is also the last that Catherine wrote to him, it must have been written on
the Monday after Sexagesima, 1380, under circumstances which she describes
for us in the next letter to be given. She had already at the time entered
upon the mystical agony which preceded her _transitus_.

The letter alludes to historic details of which we have no knowledge and
for which we do not care. Yet it has rare interest. That exquisite
sweetness which often blends in so unique a way with Catherine's
authoritative tone, was never more evident. Urban's impetuous
inconsistencies, and the irrational gusts of anger which were by this time
alienating even his friends, could not be more clearly nor more gently
rebuked. One's heart aches at the thought of what manner of man he was to
whom this sensitive and high-minded woman was forced by her faith to give
not only allegiance but championship. Not once during Catherine's active
life was she allowed to fight in a clear cause, or at least in a cause in
which sympathies could be undivided; the pathos of the situation is
evident in the meek and patient firmness of her tone. But the letter has a
deeper interest, if it is really the last she wrote to him. Knowing the
circumstances of its composition, we must be amazed at the lucidity of her
thought and words, at the steady and definite wisdom with which she
discusses the movement of events in the outer world. It is surely
significant to the psychologist that a woman in the throes of such an
experience as the next letters present, could write in such a strain. The
whole life of Catherine, indeed, refutes the popular opinion that mystics
cannot be trusted to sane judgment or sustained wisdom of action in the
confused affairs of this world.

In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest and sweetest father in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, your poor
unworthy daughter, write to you with great desire to see a prudence and
sweet light of truth in you, in such wise that I may see you follow the
glorious St. Gregory, and govern Holy Church with such prudence that it
may never be necessary to take back anything which may be ordered or done
by your Holiness; even the least word; so that your firmness grounded in
the truth may be evident in the sight of God and men, as ought to be the
case with the true holy High Priest. I pray the inestimable charity of God
that He clothe your soul in this; for it seems to me that light and
prudence are very necessary indeed to us, and especially to your Holiness
and to anyone else who might be in your place; most chiefly in these
current times. Because I know that you have a desire to find these in
yourself, I remind you of them, showing you the desire of your own soul.

I have heard, holy father, of the reply which the violence of the Prefect
made; surely in violence of wrath and irreverence toward the Roman
ambassadors. On which reply it seems that they are to hold a General
Council, and then the heads of the wards and certain other good men are to
come to you. I beg you, most holy father, that as you have begun so you
will continue to meet with them often, and to bind them prudently with the
bands of love. So I beg you that now, as to what they will say to you when
the Council is held, you will receive them with as much gentleness as you
can, showing them what your Holiness thinks must be done. Pardon me--for
love makes me say what perhaps there is no need of saying, since I know
that you must understand the temperament of your Roman sons, who are drawn
and held more with gentleness than with any force or asperity of words;
and also you recognize the great necessity in which you are, and Holy
Church, to keep this people in obedience and reverence toward your
Holiness; because the head and beginning of our faith is here. And I
humbly beg you, that you will aim prudently always to promise that which
it ought to be possible to you fully to perform, so that loss, shame, and
confusion may not follow later. Pardon me, most sweet and holy father, for
saying these words to you. I am confident that your humility and benignity
are content that they should be said, and will not feel distaste or scorn
for them because they come from the mouth of a most despicable woman; for
the humble man does not consider who speaks to him, but pays note to the
honour of God, and to truth and his own salvation.

Comfort you, and do not fear on account of any bad reply which this rebel
against your Holiness may have made or may make, for God will care for
this and for everything else, as Ruler and Helper of the ship of Holy
Church, and of your Holiness. Be you manful for me, in the holy fear of
God; wholly exemplary in your words, your habits, and all your deeds. Let
all shine clear in the sight of God and men; as a light placed in the
candlestick of Holy Church, to which looks and should look all the
Christian people.

Also I beg you that you should bring us some help for what Leo told you;
for this scandal grows greater every day, not only through the thing that
was done to the Sienese ambassador, but also through the other things
which are seen day by day, which are enough to provoke to wrath the feeble
hearts of men. You do not need this person now, but someone who shall be a
means of peace, and not of war. Although he may act with a good zeal for
justice, there are many who do so with such disorder and such impulse of
wrath that they depart from all reason and measure. Therefore I earnestly
beg your Holiness to condescend to the infirmity of men, and provide a
physician who shall know how to cure the infirmity better than he. And do
not wait so long that death shall follow: for I tell you that if no other
help is found, the infirmity will grow.

Then recall to yourself the disaster that fell upon all Italy, because bad
rulers were not guarded against, who governed in such wise that they were
the cause of the Church of God being despoiled. I know that you are aware
of this: now let your Holiness see what is to be done. Comfort you,
comfort you sweetly; for God does not despise your desire, nor the prayer
of His servants. I say no more to you. Remain in the holy and sweet Grace
of God. Humbly I ask your benediction. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


"Fightings and fears within, without," had long been Catherine's portion.
Now the end was at hand. From girlhood she had confronted a great
contradiction. The sharpest trial to Christian faith throughout the ages
is probably the spectacle presented by the visible Church of Christ. This
abiding parable of the contrast between ideal and actual was perhaps never
more painful to the devout soul than in Catherine's time, and perhaps we
are safe in saying that no one ever suffered from it more than she. Her
whole life was an Act of Faith: faith the more heroic because maintained
against the recurrent attacks of spiritual doubt and despair. At more than
one point in her career we see her, overwhelmed by the seeming failure of
the divine purpose, lifting her whole being into the Presence of God,
there to receive reassurance, none the less satisfying to her vigorous
intellect because conveyed through the channel of mystic ecstasy.

One such experience may be quoted here. It dates apparently from the time
of her greatest disappointment in Gregory; we can judge of its
significance and depth from the fact that she afterward recorded it more
fully, and used it as the basis for the first book of her "Dialogue."
"Comfort you, dearest father," she writes to Raimondo: "Concerning the
sweet Bride of Christ: for the more she abounds in tribulations and
bitterness, so much the more Divine Truth promises to make her abound in
sweetness.... When I had thoroughly understood your letters, I begged a
servant of God to offer tears and sweats before God, for the Bride and
because of the 'Babbo's' weakness.

"Whence instantly, by divine grace, there grew in her a desire and
gladness beyond all measure. She waited for the morning to have Mass, it
being the Day of Mary; and when the hour of Mass had come, took her place
with true self-knowledge, abasing herself before God for her imperfection.
And rising above herself with eager desire, and gazing with the eye of her
mind into Eternal Truth, she made four petitions there, holding herself
and her father in the Presence of the Bride of Truth.

"First, the reform of Holy Church. Then God, letting Himself be
constrained by tears and bound by the cords of her desire, said: 'Sweetest
My daughter, thou seest how she has soiled her face with impurity and
self-love, and become swollen by the pride and avarice of those who feed
at her bosom. But take thy tears and sweat, drawing them from the fountain
of My divine charity, and cleanse her face. For I promise thee that her
beauty shall not be restored to her by the sword, nor by cruelty or war,
but by peace, and humble continual prayers, tears and sweats, poured forth
from the grieving desires of My servants. So thy desire shall be fulfilled
in long abiding, and My providence shall in no wise fail you.'

"Although the salvation of all the whole world was contained in this,
nevertheless the prayer reached out more in particular, entreating for the
whole world. Then God showed in how great love He had created man, and He
said: 'Now thou seest that every one is striking at Me. See, daughter,
with what diverse and many sins they strike at Me, and especially with
their wretched abominable self-love, whence issues every evil, with which
they have poisoned the whole world. Do you then, My servants, adorn you in
My Presence with many prayers, and so you shall mitigate the wrath of
divine justice. And know that no one can escape from My Hands. Open the
eye of thy mind and gaze upon My Hand.' And lifting her eyes she saw held
in His grasp all the universal world. Then He said: 'I will that thou know
that no one can be taken from Me; for all are under either justice or
mercy; therefore all are Mine. And because they came forth from Me, I love
them unspeakably, and shall show them mercy by means of My servants.'
Then, the flame of desire increasing, that woman abode as one blessed and
grieving, and gave thanks to the Divine Goodness: as perceiving that God
had showed her the faults of His creatures that she might be constrained
to arise with more zeal and greater desire. And so greatly increased the
holy fire of love, that she despised the sweat of water she poured forth,
through her great desire to see a sweat of blood pour from her body: and
she said to herself, 'Soul mine, thou hast wasted thy whole life.
Therefore have so great losses and evils fallen on the world and on Holy
Church, in general and in particular. So now I wish thee to atone with
sweat of blood.' Then that soul, spurred on by holy desire, arose much
higher, and opened the eye of her mind, and gazed into the Divine Charity:
where she saw and felt how much we are bound to seek the glory and praise
of the Name of God in the salvation of souls."

In this remarkable passage we see Catherine's high and increasing sense of
responsibility. Her tears and sweats are to cleanse the face of the
Church, and through the grieving desire of the servants of God, redemption
is to be accomplished. She was never, as we know, one of those Christian
fatalists whose optimism leads them to inaction. From the day when,
reluctant, she left her little cell, she threw her power with unwearied
constancy and courage into the life of her day, repugnant though its
problems might be to her natural temper. Catherine was, however,
profoundly convinced that social salvation was to be wrought, not by work
alone, but also by prayer; or rather, for the antithesis is false, that
the forces which re-create society are set in motion in the invisible
sphere. Constant intercession, and the uplifting of that "holy desire"
which is the watchword of her teaching into a sacrificial passion--these
are the means from which she hoped for reform and purification. In younger
life, she is said to have prayed that she might be made a stopper in the
mouth of Hell to prevent other souls from entering; through the quaint
mediaeval figure one reads the prevailing impulse of her life.

The longer Catherine lived, the darker became the religious prospect. She
saw her aims in practical politics realized one by one, only to mock her
by spiritual failure. Those whom she best loved disappointed her ideal.
She witnessed iniquity in high religious places, violence and corruption
enlisted in the defence of truth. As she watched these things, the sense
of an inward expiation to be accomplished became overpowering. It summoned
her to death, and at the same time offered her a unique consolation.

These letters must now speak for themselves. They were written shortly
before her death to Fra Raimondo, who, sadly though he had failed her,
remained her most trusted friend. We have impressive accounts from other
sources of Catherine's slow _transitus_--of the long weeks during which
she was literally dying, and by her own choice, of a broken heart. They
corroborate many of the details here given. But of still higher value is
this transcript by the woman herself--minutely painstaking, while yet
obviously composed under strong excitement--of the experience in the
secret places of her soul. The first of these letters is written under
stress of emotion so intense that coherence is hardly possible. The mind
is baffled in seeking to find human speech which shall even adumbrate
reality. What Catherine has to describe is the culmination of her earthly
life: the final triumph of faith over despair, the final offering of
herself as a sacrificial victim, in obedience, as she believes, to the
express Voice of God. The second letter is more calm. The sacrifice has
been accepted. She is dying, not indeed by the violence of men, like the
martyrs for whose fate she has yearned, but by the agony of her own heart,
breaking for the sins of Holy Church. "I in this way," she writes
exulting, "as the holy martyrs with blood." And her agony is serene and
joyous; her last thoughts are for others; her soul is full of the victory
of peace. Outwardly, all was confusion around her; but her own life--the
only region in which unity is within our reach--was rounded into a
harmonious whole. To read the expression of that life in her letters is to
follow one of those tragedies that are the salvation of the world.


... I was breathless with grief from the crucified desire which had been
newly conceived in the sight of God. For the light of the mind had
mirrored itself in the Eternal Trinity; and in that abyss was seen the
dignity of rational being, and the misery into which man falls by fault of
mortal sin, and the necessity of Holy Church, which God revealed to His
servant's bosom; and how no one can attain to enjoy the beauty of God in
the abyss of the Trinity but by means of that sweet Bride; for it befits
all to pass by the door of Christ crucified, and this door is not found
elsewhere than in Holy Church. She saw that this Bride brought life to
men, because she holds in herself such life that there is no one who can
kill her; and that she gave fortitude and light, and that there is no one
who can weaken her, in her true self, or cast her into darkness. And she
saw that her fruit never fails, but increases for ever.

Then said Eternal God: "All this dignity, which your intellect could not
compass, is given you men by Me. Consider, therefore, in grief and
bitterness, and thou shalt see that people are approaching this Bride only
for her outer raiment--that is, for temporal possessions. But thou seest
her wholly deserted by those who seek her very essence--that is, the
fruit of Blood. He who pays not the price of charity with true humility
and the light of most holy faith, would share this, not unto life, but
unto death; he would do like the thief, who takes what is not his. For the
fruit of Blood is for those who pay the price of love, because she is
founded in love, and is Very Love itself. And I will," said Eternal God,
"that every one give to her through love, according as I give to My
servants to minister in diverse ways, even as they have received. But I
grieve that I find none who ministers there. Nay, it seems that every one
has abandoned her. But I will be the Mediator once more."

And the pain and fire of her desire increasing, she cried in the sight of
God, saying: "What can I do, O unsearchable Fire?" And His benignity
replied: "Do thou offer thy life anew. Thou canst refrain from ever giving
thyself repose. To this work I have appointed thee--thee and all who
follow thee or are to follow. Take ye then heed never to relax, but always
to increase in desires; for I, impelled by love, am taking good heed to
aid you with My bodily and spiritual grace. And in order that your minds
may not be occupied by anything else, I have made provision, arousing her
whom I have appointed to govern you, and I have led her, and put her to
this work by mysteries and in new ways; so that she serves My Church with
temporal substance, and you with continual humble faithful prayer, and
with what activities shall be needed, which shall be appointed to thee and
to them by My Goodness, to each according to his rank. Devote, then, thy
life and heart and mind wholly to that Bride, for Me, with no regard to
thyself. Contemplate Me, and behold the Bridegroom of this Bride, that is
the highest Pontiff, and see his holy and good intention--an intention
without reserves. And as the Bride is alone, so also is the bridegroom. I
permit him to cleanse Holy Church by methods which he applies
immoderately, and by fear, with which he inspires his subjects. But
another shall come, who shall draw close to her in love, and shall fulfil
her. It shall befall this Bride as it befalls the soul; for first fear
possesses her, but when she is divested of sins, then love fills her and
clothes her with virtue. All this it shall do, with sweet sustaining,
sweet and suave, of those who shall nourish them at her breast in truth.
But do thou this: Say to My Vicar that he pacify himself to the extent of
his power, and grant peace to whosoever will receive it. And to the
columns of Holy Church say that if they wish to remedy great disasters
they are to do thus: let them unite, and form a cloak to cover the methods
of their father that may seem faulty. And let them adopt a well-ordered
life, close to those who fear and love Me, and cling together, casting
their lower natures aside. If they do thus, I who am Light will give them
the light needful to Holy Church. And seeing that there is something which
ought to be done among them, let them refer it to My Vicar in true unity,
quickly, boldly, and after much reflection. He then will be constrained
not to resist their goodwills; for he really has a holy and good

The tongue does not suffice to narrate such mysteries, nor what intellect
saw and affection conceived. And the day passing by, full of marvel, the
evening came. And I, feeling that the heart was so drawn by the force of
love that I could offer no resistance to going to the place of prayer, and
feeling that disposition come upon me which was at the time of my death,
prostrated me with great compunction because I had served the Bride of
Christ with much ignorance and negligence, and had been cause that others
had done the same. And rising, with the impression of what I have said
before the eye of my mind, God placed me before Himself--not but that I am
always before Him, because He contains everything in Himself--but in a new
way, as if memory, intellect, and will had nothing whatever to do with my
body. And this Truth was reflected in me with such light that in that
abyss were then renewed the mysteries of Holy Church, and all the graces
received in my life, past and present, and the day in which my soul was
wedded to Him. All which then vanished from me through the increase of the
inward fire: and I paid heed only to what should be done, that I should
make a sacrifice of myself to God for Holy Church and for the sake of
removing ignorance and negligence from those whom God had put into my
hands. Then the devils called out havoc upon me, seeking to hinder and
slacken with their terrors my free and burning desire. So these beat upon
the shell of the body; but desire became the more kindled, crying, "O
Eternal God, receive the sacrifice of my life in this mystical body of
Holy Church! I have naught to give save what Thou hast given to me. Take
then my heart, and may Thy Bride lean her face upon it!" Then Eternal God,
turning the eyes of His mercy, removed my heart, and offered it to Holy
Church. And He had drawn it to Himself with such force that had He not at
once bound it about with His strength--not wishing that the vessel of my
body should be broken--my life would have gone. Then the devils cried
much more clamorously, as if they had felt an intolerable pain; forcing
themselves to leave terror with me, threatening me so to disport them that
such an act as this could not be wrought. But because Hell cannot resist
the virtue of humility with the light of most holy faith, the spirit
became more single, and worked with tools of fire, hearing in the sight of
the Divine Majesty words most charming, and promises to give gladness. And
because in truth it was thus in so great a mystery, the tongue henceforth
can suffice to speak of it no more.

Now I say: Thanks, thanks be to the Highest God Eternal, who has placed us
in the battlefield as knights, to fight for His Bride with the shield of
holiest faith. The field is left free to us by that virtue and power which
routed the devil who possessed the human race; who was routed, not in the
strength of humanity, but of Deity. Thus the devil neither is nor shall be
routed by the suffering of our bodies, but by strength of the fire of
divine, most ardent, and immeasurable love.


In the Name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary:

Dearest and sweetest father in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant
and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious
Blood; with the desire to see you a pillar newly established in the garden
of Holy Church, like a faithful bridegroom of truth, as you ought to be;
and then shall I account my soul as blessed. Therefore I do not wish you
to look back for any adversity or persecution, but I wish you to glory in
adversity. For by endurance and in no other wise we show our love and
constancy, and give glory to God's Name. Now is the time, dearest father,
wholly to lose one's self, not to think of one's self an atom: as the
glorious workmen did who were ready with such love and desire to give
their life, and watered this garden with blood, with humble continual
prayer, and with endurance unto death. Beware lest I see you timid; let
not your shadow make you afraid; but be a manly fighter, and never desert
that yoke of obedience which the highest pontiff has placed on you.
Moreover, in the Order do what you see to be to the honour of God; for the
great goodness of God demands this of us, and He has appointed us for
nothing else.

Behold what necessity we see in Holy Church; for we see her left utterly
alone! Thus the Truth showed, as I write you in another letter. And as the
Bride has been left solitary, so is her bridegroom. Oh, sweetest father, I
will not be silent to you of the great mysteries of God, but I will tell
them the most briefly that I can, so far as the frail tongue can express
them by telling. And further, I say to you what I want you to do. But
receive what I say to you without pain, for I do not know what the Divine
Goodness will do with me, whether It will have me remain here, or will
call me to Itself.

Father, father and sweetest son, wonderful mysteries has God wrought, from
the Day of the Circumcision till now; such that no tongue could suffice to
tell them. But let us pass over all that time, and come to Sexagesima
Sunday, when occurred, as I am writing you briefly, those mysteries which
you shall hear: never have I seemed to bear anything like them. For the
pain in my heart was so great, that the tunic which clothed me burst, as
much as I could clasp of it; and I circled around in the chapel like a
person in spasms. He who had held me had surely taken away my life. Then,
Monday coming, in the evening I was constrained to write to Christ on
earth and to three cardinals. So I had myself helped, and went into the
study. And when I had written to Christ on earth, I had no way of writing
more, the pains had so greatly increased in my body. And, waiting a
little, the terror of demons began, in such wise that they stunned me
entirely; raging against me as if I, worm that I am, had been the means of
taking from their hands what they had possessed a long time in Holy
Church. So great was the terror, with the bodily pain, that I wanted to
fly from the study and go to the chapel--as if the study had been the
cause of my pains. So I rose up, and not being able to walk, I leaned on
my son Barduccio. But suddenly I was thrown down; and lying there, it
seemed to me as if my soul were parted from my body; not in such wise as
when it really was parted, for then my soul tasted the good of the
Immortals, receiving that Highest Good together with them; but this now
seemed like a special case, for I did not seem to be in the body, but I
saw my body as if it had been someone else. And my soul, seeing the grief
of him who was with me, wished to know if I had any power over the body,
to say to him: "Son, do not fear"; and I saw that I could not move the
tongue or any member of it, any more than a body quite dead. Then I let
the body stay just as it was; and the intellect was fixed on the abyss of
the Trinity. Memory was full of recollection of the need of Holy Church
and of all the Christian people; and I cried before His Face, and demanded
divine help with assurance, offering to Him my desires, and constraining
Him by the Blood of the Lamb and the pains that had been borne. And so
eager was the demand that it seemed to me sure that He would not deny that
petition. Then I asked for all you others, praying Him that He would
fulfil in you His will and my desires. Then I asked that He would save me
from eternal condemnation. And while I stayed thus for a very long time,
so that the Family was mourning me as dead, at this point all the terror
of the demons was gone away. Then the Presence of the Humble Lamb came
before my soul, saying: "Fear not: for I will fulfil thy desires, and
those of My other servants. I will that thou see that I am a good master,
who plays the potter, unmaking and remaking vessels as His pleasure is.
These My vessels I know how to unmake and remake; and therefore I take the
vessel of thy body, and remake it in the garden of Holy Church, in
different wise than in past time." And as this Truth held me close, with
ways and words most charming, which I pass over, the body began to breathe
a little, and to show that the soul was returned to its vessel. Then I was
full of wonder. And such pain remained in my heart that I have it there
still. All pleasure and all refreshment and all food was then taken away
from me. Being carried afterward into a place above, the room appeared
full of devils: and they began to wage another battle, the most terrible
that I ever had, trying to make me believe and see that I was not she who
was in the body, but an impure spirit. I, having invoked the divine help
with a sweet tenderness, refusing no labour, yet said: "God, listen for my
help! Lord, haste Thee to help me! Thou hast permitted that I be alone in
this battle, without the refreshment of the father of my soul, of whom I
am deprived for my ingratitude."

Two nights and two days passed in these tempests. It is true that mind and
desire received no break, but remained ever fixed on their object; but the
body seemed almost to have failed. Afterward, on the Day of the
Purification of Mary, I wished to hear Mass. Then all the mysteries were
renewed; and God showed the great need that existed, as later appeared;
for Rome has all been on the point of revolution, backbiting
disgracefully, and with much irreverence. Only that God has poured oil on
their hearts, and I think the thing will have a good end. Then God imposed
this obedience on me, that during the whole of this holy season of Lent I
should offer in sacrifice the desires of all the Family, and have Mass
celebrated before Him with this one intention alone--that is, for Holy
Church--and that I should myself hear a Mass every morning at dawn--a
thing which you know is impossible to me; but in obedience to Him all
things have been possible. And this desire has become so much a part of my
flesh, that memory retains nothing else, intellect can see nothing else,
and will can desire nothing else. Not so much that the soul turns aside
from things here below for this reason--but, conversing with the True
Citizens, it neither can nor will rejoice in their joy, but in their
hunger, which they still feel, and which they felt while pilgrims and
wayfarers in this life.

In this way, and many others which I cannot tell, my life is consumed and
shed for this sweet Bride: I by this road, and the glorious martyrs with
blood. I pray the Divine Goodness soon to let me see the redemption of His
people. When it is the hour of terce, I rise from Mass, and you would see
a dead woman go to St. Peter's; and I enter anew to labour in the ship of
Holy Church. There I stay thus till near the hour of vespers: and from
this place I would depart neither day nor night until I see this people at
least a little steadily established in peace with their father. This body
of mine remains without any food, without even a drop of water: in such
sweet physical tortures as I never at any time endured; insomuch that my
life hangs by a thread. Now I do not know what the Divine Goodness will do
with me: as far as my feelings go, I do not say that I perceive His will
in this matter; but as to my physical sensations, it seems to me that this
time I am to confirm them with a new martyrdom in the sweetness of my
soul--that is, for Holy Church; then, perhaps, He will make me rise again
with Him. He will put so an end to my miseries and to my crucified
desires. Or He may employ His usual ways to strengthen my body. I have
prayed and pray His mercy that His will be fulfilled in me, and that He
leave not you or the others orphans. But may He ever guide you in the way
of the doctrine of Truth, with true and very perfect light. I am sure that
He will do it.

Now I pray and constrain you, father, and son given by that sweet Mother,
Mary, that you feel that if God is turning the eye of His mercy upon me,
He wills to renew your life; and as dead to all fleshly impulse do you
cast yourself into that ship of Holy Church. And be always discreet in
your conversations. You will be able to have the actual cell little; but I
wish you to have the cell of the heart always, and always carry it with
you. For as you know, while we are locked therein enemies can do us no
wrong. Then every act you shall do will be guided and ordered of God.
Also, I beg you that you ripen your heart with holy and true prudence; and
that your life be an example to worldly men by your never conforming to
the world's customs. May that generosity toward the poor and that
voluntary poverty which you have always practised, be renewed and
refreshed in you with true and perfect humility. Do not slacken in these,
for any dignity or exaltation that God may give you, but descend more deep
into that Valley of Humility, rejoicing in the table of the Cross. There
receive the food of souls: embracing the Mother, humble, faithful, and
continual prayer, and holy vigil: celebrating every day, unless for some
special reason. Flee idle and light talking, and be and show yourself
mature in your speech and in every way. Cast from you all tenderness for
yourself and all servile fear; for the sweet Church has no need of such
folk, but of persons cruel to themselves and compassionate to her. These
are the things which I beg you to study to observe. Also I beg you that
you and Brother Bartolomeo and Brother Tommaso and the Master should
gather together in your hands the book, and any writing of mine that you
might find, and do with them what you see will be most to the honour of
God: you and Misser Tommaso too--things in which I found some recreation.
I beg you also, that so far as shall be possible to you, you be a shepherd
and ruler to this Family, as a father, keeping them in the joy of charity
and in perfect union; that they be not scattered as sheep without a
shepherd. And I think to do more for them and for you after my death than
in my life. I shall pray the Eternal Truth that He pour forth upon you
others all plenitude of grace and gifts which He may have given to my
soul, so that you may be lights placed in a candlestick. I beg you to pray
the Eternal Bridegroom that He make me manfully fulfil His obedience, and
pardon me the multitude of my iniquities. And I beg you that you pardon me
every disobedience, irreverence, and ingratitude which I showed to you or
committed against you, and all pain and bitterness which I may have caused
you: and the slight zeal which I have had for our salvation. And I ask you
for your blessing.

Pray earnestly for me, and have others pray, for the love of Christ
crucified. Pardon me, that I have written you words of bitterness. I do
not write them, however, to cause you bitterness, but because I am in
doubt, and do not know what the Goodness of God will do with me. I wish to
have done my duty. And do not feel regret because we are separated one
from the other in the body; although you would have been the very greatest
consolation to me, greater are my consolation and gladness to see the
fruit that you are bearing in Holy Church. And now I beg you to labour yet
more zealously, for she never had so great a need: and do you never depart
for any persecution without permission from our lord the Pope. Comfort you
in Christ sweet Jesus, without any bitterness. I say no more to you.
Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


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