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Title: Letters of Catherine Benincasa
Author: Catherine, of Siena, Saint
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letters of Catherine Benincasa" ***

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Anne Soulard, Charles Franks, Robert Shimmin, and the Online Distributed


[Illustration: _The Ecstasy of St. Catherine
Detail from Bazzis Fresco_]




Table of Persons Addressed
St. Catherine of Siena as seen in her letters
Chief Events in the life of St. Catherine
Brief Outline of Contemporary Public Events
To Monna Alessa dei Saracini
To Benincasa her brother, when he was in Florence
To the Venerable Religious, Brother Antonio of Nizza
To Monna Agnese, who was the wife of Messer Orso Malavolti
To Sister Eugenia, her niece at the Convent of St. Agnes of Montepulciano
To Nanna, daughter of Benincasa, a little maid, her niece
Letters on the Consecrated Life
    To Brother William of England
    To Daniella of Orvieto, clothed with the Habit of St. Dominic
    To Monna Agnese, wife of Francesco, a tailor of Florence
Letters in response to certain criticisms
    To Monna Orsa, wife of Bartolo Usimbardi, and to Monna Agnese
    To a Religious man in Florence, who was shocked at her Ascetic
To Brother Bartolomeo Dominici
To Brother Matteo di Francesco Tolomei
To a Mantellata of Saint Dominic, called Catarina di Scetto
To Neri di Landoccio dei Pagliaresi
To Monna Giovanna and her other daughters in Siena
To Messer John, the Soldier of Fortune
To Monna Colomba in Lucca
To Brother Raimondo of Capua, of the Order of the Preachers
To Gregory XI
To Gregory XI
To Gregory XI
To Brother Raimondo of Capua, at Avignon
To Catarina of the Hospital, and Giovanna di Capo
To Sister Daniella of Orvieto
To Brother Raimondo of Capua, and to Master John III
To Sister Bartolomea della Seta
To Gregory XI
To the King of France
Letters to Florence
    To the Eight of War chosen by the Commune of Florence
    To Buonaccorso di Lapo: written when the Saint was at Avignon
To Gregory XI
To Monna Lapa, her mother, before she returned from Avignon
To Monna Giovanna di Corrado Maconi
To Messer Ristoro Canigiani
To the Anziani and Consuls and Gonfalonieri of Bologna
To Nicholas of Osimo
To Misser Lorenzo del Pino of Bologna, Doctor in Decretals
Letters written from Rocca D'Orcia
    To Monna Lapa, her mother, and to Monna Cecca
    To Monna Catarina of the Hospital, and to Giovanna di Capo
    To Monna Alessa, clothed with the Habit of Saint Dominic
To Gregory XI
To Raimondo of Capua
To Urban VI
To her spiritual children in Siena
    To Brother William and to Messer Matteo of the Misericordia
    To Sano di Maco, and to all her other sons in Siena
To Brother Raimondo of Capua
To Urban VI
To Don Giovanni of the Cells of Vallombrosa
Letters announcing peace
    To Monna Alessa, when the Saint was at Florence
    To Sano di Maco, and to the other sons in Christ
To three Italian Cardinals
To Giovanna, Queen of Naples
To Sister Daniella of Orvieto
To Stefano Maconi
To certain holy hermits who had been invited to Rome by the Pope
    To Brother William of England, and to Brother Antonio of Nizza
    To Brother Andrea of Lucca, Brother Baldo, and Brother Lando
    To Brother Antonio of Nizza
To Queen Giovanna of Naples
To Brother Raimondo of the Preaching Order, when he was in Genoa
To Urban VI
Letters describing the experience preceding death
    To Master Raimondo of Capua
    To Master Raimondo of Capua, of the Order of the Preachers


Agnese, Monna, di Francesco
Andrea, Brother, of Lucca
Antonio, Brother, of Nizza

Baldo, Brother
Bartolomea, Sister, della Seta
Bartolomeo, Brother, Dominici
Benincasa, Benincasa
Benincasa, Eugenia
Benincasa, Monna Lapa
Benincasa, Nanna
Bologna, Anziani of

Capo, Giovanna di
Canigiani, Ristoro
Cardinals, Three Italian
Catarina, of the Hospital
Cecca, Monna
Colomba, Monna, of Lucca

Daniella, Sister, of Orvieto

France, the King of
Florence, Letters to

Giovanna, Queen of Naples
Giovanni, Don, of the Cells of Vallombrosa
Gregory XI.

John, Messer, Soldier of Fortune
John III., Master

Lando, Brother
Lapo, Buonaccorso di

Maco, Sano di
Maconi, Monna Giovanna di Corrado
Maconi, Stefano
Malavolti, Monna Agnese
Matteo, Messer, of the Misericordia

Osimo, Nicholas of

Pagliaresi, Neri di Landoccio dei
Pino, Lorenzo del

Raimondo, Brother, of Capua
Religious, A, in Florence

Saracini, Monna Alessa dei
Scetto, Catarina di

Tolomei, Brother Matteo di

Urban VI., Pope
Usimbardi, Monna Orsa

War, the Eight of
William, Brother, of England




The letters of Catherine Benincasa, commonly known as St. Catherine of
Siena, have become an Italian classic; yet perhaps the first thing in them
to strike a reader is their unliterary character. He only will value them
who cares to overhear the impetuous outpourings of the heart and mind of
an unlettered daughter of the people, who was also, as it happened, a
genius and a saint. Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, the other great writers of
the Trecento, are all in one way or another intent on choice expression;
Catherine is intent solely on driving home what she has to say. Her
letters were talked rather than written. She learned to write only three
years before her death, and even after this time was in the habit of
dictating her correspondence, sometimes two or three letters at a time, to
the noble youths who served her as secretaries.

The modern listener to this eager talk may perhaps at first feel wearied.
Suffocated by words, repelled by frequent crudity and confusion of
metaphor, he may even be inclined to call the thought childish and the
tone overwrought. But let him persevere. Let him read these letters as
chapters in an autobiography, noting purpose and circumstance, and reading
between the lines, as he may easily do, the experience of the writer.
Before long the very accents of a living woman will reach his ears. He
will hear her voice, now eagerly pleading with friend or wrong-doer, now
brooding tender as a mother-bird over some fledgling soul, now broken with
sobs as she mourns over the sins of Church and world, and again chanting
high prophecy of restoration and renewal, or telling in awestruck
undertone sacred mysteries of the interior life. Dante's Angel of Purity
welcomes wayfarers upon the Pilgrim Mount "in voce assai più che la
nostra, viva." The saintly voice, like the angelic, is more living than
our own. These letters are charged with a vitality so intense that across
the centuries it draws us into the author's presence.

Imagination is inclined to see the canonized saints as a row of solemn
figures, standing in dull monotony of worshipful gesture, like Virgins and
Confessors in an early mosaic. Yet, as a matter of fact, people who have
been canonized were to their contemporaries the most striking
personalities among men and women striving for righteousness. They were
all, to be sure, very good; but goodness, despite a curious prejudice to
the contrary, admits more variety in type than wickedness, and produces
more interesting characters. Catherine Benincasa was probably the most
remarkable woman of the fourteenth century, and her letters are the
precious personal record of her inner as of her outer life. With all their
transparent simplicity and mediaeval quaintness, with all the occasional
plebeian crudity of their phrasing, they reveal a nature at once so many-
sided and so exalted that the sensitive reader can but echo the judgment
of her countrymen, who see in the dyer's daughter of Siena one of the most
significant authors of a great age.


As is the case with many great letter-writers, though not with all,
Catherine reveals herself largely through her relations with others. Some
of her letters, indeed, are elaborate religious or political treatises,
and seem at first sight to have little personal colouring; yet even these
yield their full content of spiritual beauty and wisdom only when one
knows the circumstances that called them forth and the persons to whom
they were addressed. A mere glance at the index to her correspondence
shows how widely she was in touch with her time. She was a woman of
personal charm and of sympathies passionately wide, and she gathered
around her friends and disciples from every social group in Italy, not to
speak of many connections formed with people in other lands. She wrote to
prisoners and outcasts; to great nobles and plain business men; to
physicians, lawyers, soldiers of fortune; to kings and queens and
cardinals and popes; to recluses pursuing the Beatific Vision, and to men
and women of the world plunged in the lusts of the flesh and governed by
the pride of life. The society of the fourteenth century passes in review
as we turn the pages.

Catherine wrote to all these people in the same simple spirit. With one
and all she was at home, for all were to her, by no merely formal phrase,
"dearest brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus." One knows not whether to
be more struck by the outspoken fearlessness of the woman or by her great
adaptability. She could handle with plain directness the crudest sins of
her age; she could also treat with subtle insight the most elusive phases
of spiritual experience. No greater distance can be imagined than that
which separates the young Dominican with her eyes full of visions from a
man like Sir John Hawkwood, reckless free-lance, selling his sword with
light-hearted zeal to the highest bidder, and battening on the disorder of
the times. Catherine writes to him with gentlest assumption of fellowship,
seizes on his natural passions and tastes, and seeks to sanctify the
military life of his affections. With her sister nuns the method changes.
She gives free play to her delicate fancy, drawing her metaphors from the
beauty of nature, from tender, homely things, from the gentle arts and
instincts of womanhood. Does she speak to Pope Gregory, the timid? Her
words are a trumpet-call. To the harsh Urban, his successor? With finest
tact she urges self-restraint and a policy of moderation. Temperaments of
every type are to be met in her pages--a sensitive poet, troubled by
"confusion of thought" deepening into melancholia; a harum-scarum boy, in
whose sunny joyousness she discerns the germ of supernatural grace;
vehement sinners, fearful saints, religious recluses deceived by self-
righteousness, and men of affairs devoutly faithful to sober duty.
Catherine enters into every consciousness. As a rule we associate with
very pure and spiritual women, even if not cloistered, a certain deficient
sense of reality. We cherish them, and shield them from harsh contact with
the world, lest the fine flower of their delicacy be withered. But no one
seems to have felt in this way about Catherine. Her "love for souls" was
no cold electric illumination such as we sometimes feel the phrase to
imply, but a warm understanding tenderness for actual men and women. It
would be hard to exaggerate her knowledge of the world and of human

Yet sometimes Catherine appears to us austere and exacting; unsparing in
condemnation, and unrelenting in her demands on those she loves. Many of
her letters are in a strain of exhortation that rises into rebuke. The
impression at first is unpleasant. We are tempted to feel this unfailing
candour captious; to resent the note of authority, equally clear whether
she write to Pope or Cardinal; to suspect Catherine, in a word, of
assuming that very judicial attitude which she constantly deprecates as
unbecoming to us poor mortals. And perhaps the very frequency of her plea
for tolerance and forbearance suggests a conscious weakness. Like most
brilliant and ardent people, she was probably by nature of a critical and
impatient disposition; she was, moreover, a plebeian. At times, when she
is quite sure that men are on the side of the devil, she allows her
instinctive frankness full scope; it must be allowed that the result is
astounding. Yet even as we catch our breath we realise that her remarks
were probably justified. It is hard for us moderns to remember how crudely
hideous were the sins which she faced. In these days, when we are all
reduced to one apparent level of moral respectability, and great
saintliness and dramatic guilt are alike seldom conspicuous, we forget the
violent contrasts of the middle ages. Pure "Religious," striving after the
exalted perfection enjoined by the Counsels, moved habitually among moral
atrocities, and bold vigour of speech was a practical duty. Catherine
handled without evasion the grossest evils of her time, and the spell
which she exercised by simple force of direct dealing was nothing less
than extraordinary.

It is easy to see why Catherine's plain speaking was not resented. She
rarely begins with rebuke. The note of humility is first struck; she is
always "servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ." Thence she
frequently passes into fervent meditation on some special theme: the
exceeding wonder of the Divine Love, the duty of prayer, the nature of
obedience. We are lifted above the world into a region of heavenly light
and sweetness, when suddenly--a blow from the shoulder!--a startling sense
of return to earth. From the contemplation of the beauty of holiness,
Catherine has swiftly turned us to face the opposing sin. "Thou art the
man!" A few trenchant sentences, charged with pain, and the soul which has
been raised to celestial places awakes to see in itself the contradiction
of all that is so lovely. Into the region of darkness Catherine goes with
it. It is not "thou" but "we" who have sinned. She holds that sinful heart
so near her own that the beatings are confounded; her words now and again
express a shuddering personal remorse for sins of which she could have had
no personal knowledge. Her sense of unity with her fellow-men lies deeper
than any theory of brotherhood; she feels herself in sober truth guilty of
the sins of her brothers: her experience illustrates the profound truth
that only purity can know perfect penitence.

Catherine is then saved from any touch of Pharisaism by her remarkable
identification of herself with the person to whom she writes. But to
understand her attitude we must go further. For she never pauses in
reprobation of evil. Full of conviction that the soul needs only to
recognise its sin to hate and escape it for ever, she passes swiftly on to
impassioned appeal. Her words breathe a confidence in men that never fails
even when she is writing to the most hardened. She succeeded to a rare
degree in the difficult conciliation of uncompromising hatred toward sin
with unstrained fellowship with the sinner, and invincible trust in his
responsiveness to the appeal of virtue. When we consider the times in
which she lived, this large and touching trustfulness becomes to our eyes
a victory of faith. That it was no mere instinct, but an attitude
resolutely adopted and maintained, is evident from her frequent
discussions of charity and tolerance, some of which will be found in these
selections. She constantly urges her disciples to put the highest possible
construction on their neighbours' actions; nor is any phase of her
teaching more constantly repeated than the beautiful application of the
text: "In My Father's House are many mansions," to enjoin recognition of
the varieties in temperament and character and practice which may coexist
in the House of God.

Catherine had learned a hard lesson. She saw in human beings not their
achievements, but their possibilities. Therefore she quickened repentance
by a positive method, not by morbid analysis of evil, not by lurid
pictures of the consequences of sin, but by filling the soul with glowing
visions of that holiness which to see is to long for. She never despaired
of quickening in even the most degraded that flame of "holy desire" which
is the earnest of true holiness to be. We find her impatient of mint and
cummin, of over-anxious self-scrutiny. "Strive that your holy desires
increase," she writes to a correspondent; "and let all these other things
alone." "I, Catherine--write to you--with desire": so open all her
letters. Holy Desire! It is not only the watchword of her teaching: it is
also the true key to her personality.


We have dwelt on Catherine, the friend and guide of souls; but it is
Catherine the mystic, Catherine the friend of God, before whom the ages
bend in reverence. The final value of her letters lies in their
revelation, not of her dealings with other souls, but of God's dealings
with her own.

But in presence of the record of these deep experiences, silence is better
than words: is, indeed, for most of us the only possible attitude. The
letters that follow must speak for themselves. The clarity of mind which
Catherine always preserved, even in moments of highest exaltation, and her
loving eagerness to share her most sacred experiences with those dear to
her, have given her a power of expression that has produced pages of
unsurpassed interest and value, alike for the psychologist and for the
believer. Moreover--and this we well may note--her letters enable us to
apprehend with singularly happy intimacy, the natural character and
disposition of her whom these high things befell. In the very cadence of
their impetuous phrasing, in their swift dramatic changes, in their
marvellous blending of sweetness and virility, they show us the woman.
Some of them, especially those to her family and friends, are of almost
childlike simplicity and homely charm; others, among the most famous of
their kind, deal with mystical, or if we choose so to put it, with
supernatural experience: in all alike, we feel a heart akin to our own,
though larger and more tender.

The central fact in Catherine's nature was her rapt and absolute
perception of the Love of God, as the supreme reality in the universe.
This Love, as manifested in creation, in redemption, and in the sacrament
of the Altar, is the theme of her constant meditations. One little phrase,
charged with a lyric poignancy, sings itself again and again, enlightening
her more sober prose: "For nails would not have held God-and-Man fast to
the Cross, had love not held Him there." Her conceptions are positive, not
negative, and joyous adoration is the substance of her faith.

But the letters show us that this faith was not won nor kept without sharp
struggle. We have in them no presentation of a calm spirit, established on
tranquil heights of unchanging vision, above our "mortal moral strife."
Catherine is, as we can see, a woman of many moods--very sensitive, very
loving. She shows a touching dependence on those she loves, and an
inveterate habit of idealising them, which leads to frequent disillusion.
She is extremely eager and intense about little things as well as great;
hers is a truly feminine seriousness over the detail of living. She is
keenly and humanly interested in life on this earth, differing in this
respect from some canonized persons who seem always to be enduring it
_faute de mieux_. And, as happens to all sensitive people who refuse to
seclude themselves in dreams, life went hard with her. Hers was a frail
and suffering body, and a tossed and troubled spirit; wounded in the house
of her friends, beset by problem, shaken with doubt and fear by the
spectacle presented to her by the world and the Church of Christ. The
letters tell us how these, her sorrows and temptations, were not separated
from the life of faith, but a true portion of it: how she carried them
into the Divine Presence, and what high reassurance awaited her there.
Ordinary mortals are inclined to think that supernatural experience
removes the saints to a perplexing distance. In Catherine's case, however,
we become aware as we study the record that it brings her nearer us. For
these experiences, far from being independent of her outer life, are in
closest relation with it; even the highest and most mysterious, even those
in which the symbolism seems most remote from the modern mind, can be
translated by the psychologist without difficulty into modern terms. They
spring from the problems of her active life; they bring her renewed
strength and wisdom for her practical duties. An age, which like our own
places peculiar emphasis and value on the type of sanctity which promptly
expresses itself through the deed, should feel for Catherine Benincasa an
especial honour. She is one of the purest of Contemplatives; she knows,
what we to-day too often forget, that the task is impossible without the
vision. But it follows directly upon the vision, and this great mediaeval
mystic is one of the most efficient characters of her age.


Catherine's soaring imagination lifted her above the circle of purely
personal interests, and made her a force of which history is cognisant in
the public affairs of her day. She is one of a very small number of women
who have exerted the influence of a statesman by virtue, not of feminine
attractions, but of conviction and intellectual power. It is impossible to
understand her letters without some recognition of the public drama of the

Two great ideals of unity--one Roman, one Christian in origin--had
possessed the middle ages. In the strength of them the wandering barbaric
hordes had been reduced to order, and Western Europe had been trained into
some perception of human fellowship. Of these two unifying forces, the
imperialistic ideal was moribund in Catherine's time: not even a Dante,
born fifty years after his true date, could have held to it. Remained the
ideal of the Church universal, and to this last hope of a peaceful
commonwealth that should include all humanity, the idealists clung in

But alas for the faith of idealists when fact gives theory the lie! What
at this time was the unity of mankind in the Church but a formal
hypothesis? The keystone of her all-embracing arch was the Papacy. But the
Pope no longer sat heir of the Caesars in the seat of the Apostles; for
seventy years he had been a practical dependant of the French king, living
in pleasant Provence. Neither the scorn of Dante, nor the eloquence of
Petrarch, nor the warnings of holy men, had prevailed on the popes to
return to Italy, and make an end of the crying scandal which was the
evident contradiction of the Christian dream. Meantime, the city of the
Caesars lay waste and wild; the clergy was corrupt almost past belief; the
dreaded Turk was gathering his forces, a menace to Christendom itself. The
times were indeed evil, and the "servants of God," of whom then, as now,
there were no inconsiderable number, withdrew for the most part into
spiritual or literal seclusion, and in the quietude of cloister or forest
cell busied themselves with the concerns of their own souls.

Not so Catherine Benincasa. She had known that temptation and conquered
it. After her reception as a Dominican Tertiary, she had possessed the
extraordinary resolution to live for three years the recluse life, not in
the guarded peace of a convent, but in her own room at home, in the noisy
and overcrowded house where a goodly number of her twenty-four brothers
and sisters were apparently still living. And these had been years of
inestimable preciousness; but they came to an end at the command of God,
speaking through the constraining impulse of her love for men. From the
mystical retirement in which she had long lived alone with her Beloved,
she emerged into the world. And the remarkable fact is that in no respect
did she blench from the situation as she found it. She "faced life
steadily and faced it whole." A Europe ravaged by dissensions lay before
her; a Church which gave the lie to its lofty theories, no less by the
hateful worldliness of its prelates than by its indifferent abandonment of
the Seat of Peter. Above this sorry spectacle the mind of Catherine soared
straight into an upper region, where only the greatest minds of the day
were her comrades. Her fellow-citizens were unable to entertain the idea
even of civic peace within the limits of their own town; but patriotic
devotion to all Italy fired her great heart. More than this--her instinct
for solidarity forced her to dwell in the thought of a world-embracing
brotherhood. Her hopes were centred, not like Dante's in the Emperor the
heir of the Caesars, but in the Pope the heir of Christ. Despite the
corruption from which she recoiled with horror, despite the Babylonian
captivity at Avignon, she saw in the Catholic Church that image of a pure
universal fellowship which the noblest Catholics of all ages have
cherished. To the service of the Church, therefore, her life was
dedicated; it was to her the Holy House of Reconciliation, wherein all
nations should dwell in unity; and only by submission to its authority
could the woes of Italy be healed.

Catherine's letters on public affairs--historical documents of recognised
importance--give us her practical programme. It was formed in the light of
that faith which she always describes as "the eye of the mind." She was
called during her brief years of political activity to meet three chief
issues: the absence of the Pope from Italy; the rebellion of the Tuscan
cities, headed by Florence, against his authority; and at a later time the
great Schism, which broke forth under Urban VI. During her last five years
she was absorbed in ecclesiastical affairs. In certain of her immediate
aims she succeeded, in others she failed. It would be hard to say whether
her success or her failure involved the greater tragedy. For behind all
these aims was a larger ideal that was not to be realised--the dream,
entertained as passionately by Catherine Benincasa as by Savonarola or by
Luther, of thorough Church-reform. Catherine at Avignon, pleading this
great cause in the frivolous culture and dainty pomp of the place;
Catherine at Rome, defending to her last breath the legal rights of a Pope
whom she could hardly have honoured, and whose claims she saw defended by
extremely doubtful means--is a figure as pathetic as heroic. Few sorrows
are keener than to work with all one's energies to attain a visible end
for the sake of a spiritual result, and, attaining that end, to find the
result as far as ever. This sorrow was Catherine's. The external successes
which she won--considerable enough to secure her a place in history--
availed nothing to forward the greater aim for which she worked. Gregory
XI., under her magnetic inspiration, gathered strength, indeed, to make a
personal sacrifice and to return to Rome, but he was of no calibre to
attempt radical reform, and his residence in Italy did nothing to right
the crying abuses that were breaking Christian hearts. His successor, on
the other hand, did really initiate the reform of the clergy, but so
drastic and unwise were his methods that the result was terrible and
disconcerting--the development of a situation of which only the Catholic
idealist could discern the full irony; no less than Schism, the rending of
the Seamless Robe of Christ.

With failing hopes and increasing experience of the complexity of human
struggle, Catherine clung to her aim until the end. There was no touch of
pusillanimity in her heroic spirit. As with deep respect we follow the
Letters of the last two years, and note their unflagging alertness and
vigour, their steady tone of devotion and self-control, we realise that to
tragedy her spirit was dedicate. Her energy of mind was constantly on the
increase. Still, it is true, she wrote to disciples near and far long,
tender letters of spiritual counsel--analyses of the religious life
tranquilly penetrating as those of an earlier time. But her political
correspondence grew in bulk. It is tense, nervous, virile. It breathes a
vibrating passion, a solemn force, that are the index of a breaking heart.
Not for one moment did Catherine relax her energies. From 1376, when she
went to Avignon, she led, with one or two brief intermissions only, the
life of a busy woman of affairs. But within this outer life of strenuous
and, as a rule, thwarted activities, another life went on--a life in which
failure could not be, since through failure is wrought redemption.

From the days of her stigmatization, which occurred in 1375 at Pisa,
Catherine had been convinced that in some special sense she was to share
in the Passion of Christ, and offer herself a sacrifice for the sins of
Holy Church. Now this conception deepened till it became all-absorbing. In
full consciousness of failing vital powers, in expectation of her
approaching death, she offered her sufferings of mind and body as an
expiation for the sins around her. By word of mouth and by letters of
heartbroken intensity she summoned all dear to her to join in this holy
offering. Catherine's faith is alien to these latter days. Yet the
psychical unity of the race is becoming matter not only of emotional
intuition, but established scientific fact: and no modern sociologist, no
psychologist who realizes how unknown in origin and how intimate in
interpenetration are the forces that control our destiny, can afford to
scoff at her. She had longed inexpressibly for outward martyrdom. This was
not for her, yet none the less really did she lay down her life on the
Altar of Sacrifice. The evils of the time, and above all of the Church,
had generated a sense of unbearable sin in her pure spirit; her constant
instinct to identify herself with the guilt of others found in this final
offering an august climax and fulfilment.

During the last months of her life--months of excruciating physical
sufferings, vividly described for us by her contemporaries--the woman's
rectitude and wisdom, her swift tender sympathies, were still, as ever, at
the disposal of all who sought them. With unswerving energy she still
laboured for the cause of truth. When we consider the conditions,
spiritual and physical, of those last months, we read with amazement the
able, clearly conceived, practical letters which she was despatching to
the many European potentates whom she was endeavouring to hold true to the
cause of Urban. But her spirit in the meantime dwelt in the region of the
Eternal, where the dolorous struggle of the times appeared, indeed, but
appeared in its essential significance as seen by angelic intelligences.
The awe-struck letters to Fra Raimondo, her Confessor, with which this
selection closes, are an accurate transcript of her inner experience. They
constitute, surely, a precious heritage of the Church for which her life
was given. Catherine Benincasa died heartbroken; yet in the depths of her
consciousness was joy, for God had revealed to her that His Bride the
Church, "which brings life to men," "holds in herself such life that no
man can kill her." "Sweetest My daughter, thou seest how she has soiled
her face with impurity and self-love, and grown puffed up by the pride and
avarice of those who feed at her bosom. But take thy tears and sweats,
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 nor war, but by peace, and by humble continual
prayer, 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."


Psychologically, as in point of time, St. Catherine stands between St.
Francis and St. Teresa. Her writings are of the middle ages, not of the
renascence, but they express the twilight of the mediaeval day. They
reveal the struggles and the spiritual achievement of a woman who lived in
the last age of an undivided Christendom, and whose whole life was
absorbed in the special problems of her time. These problems, however, are
in the deepest sense perpetual, and her attitude toward them is suggestive

It has been claimed that Catherine, a century and a half later, would have
been a Protestant. Such hypotheses are always futile to discuss; but the
view hardly commends itself to the careful student of her writings. It is
suggested, naturally enough, by her denunciations of the corruptions of
the Church, denunciations as sweeping and penetrating as were ever uttered
by Luther; by her amazingly sharp and outspoken criticism of the popes;
and by her constant plea for reform. The pungency of all these elements in
her writings is felt by the most casual reader. But it must never be
forgotten that honest and vigorous criticism of the Church Visible is, in
the mind of the Catholic philosopher, entirely consistent with loyalty to
the sacerdotal theory. There is a noble idealism that breaks in fine
impatience with tradition, and audaciously seeks new symbols wherein to
suggest for a season the eternal and imageless truth. But perhaps yet
nobler in the sight of God--surely more conformed to His methods in nature
and history--is that other idealism which patiently bows to the yoke of
the actual, and endures the agony of keeping true at once to the heavenly
vision and to the imperfect earthly form. Iconoclastic zeal against
outworn or corrupt institutions fires our facile enthusiasm. Let us
recognize also the spiritual passion that suffers unflinchingly the
disparity between the sign and the thing signified, and devotes its
energies, not to discarding, but to restoring and purifying that sign.
Such passion was Catherine's. The most distinctive trait in the woman's
character was her power to cling to an ideal verity with unfaltering
faithfulness, even when the whole aspect of life and society around her
seemed to give that verity the lie. To imagine her without faith in the
visible Church and the God-given authority of the Vicar of Christ is to
imagine another woman. Catherine of Siena's place in the history of minds
is with Savonarola, not with Luther.

Catherine confronted a humanity at enmity with itself, a Church conformed
to the image of this world. Her external policy proved helpless to right
these evils. The return of the Popes from Avignon resulted neither in the
pacification of Christendom nor in the reform of the Church. The Great
Schism, of which she saw the beginning, undermined the idea of Christian
unity till the thought of the Saint of Siena was in natural sequence
followed by the thought of Luther. Outwardly her life was spent in
labouring for a hopeless cause, discredited by the subsequent movement of
history. But the material tragedy was a spiritual triumph, not only
through the victory of faith in her own soul, but through the value of the
witness which she bore. Neither of the great conceptions of unity which
possessed the middle ages was identical with the modern democratic
conception; yet both, and in particular that of the Church, pointed in
this direction. That ideal of world-embracing brotherhood to which men
have been slowly awakening throughout the Christian centuries was the
dominant ideal of Catherine's mind. She hoped for the attainment of such a
brotherhood through the instrument of an organized Christendom, reduced to
peace and unity under one God-appointed Head. History, as some of us
think, has rejected the noble dream. We seem to see that the undying hope
of the human spirit--a society shaped by justice and love--is never likely
to be gained along the lines of the centralization of ecclesiastical
power. But if our idea of the means has changed, the same end still shines
before us. The vision of human fellowship in the Name of Christ, for which
Catherine lived and died, remains the one hope for the healing of the


[Processor's note: this timeline and the one that follows appeared in the
opposite order in the 1905 edition on which this etext is based. Their
order has been reversed to correctly reflect the order in which they
appear in the table of contents.]

1347. On March 25th, Catherine, and a twin-sister who dies at once, are
born in the Strada dell' Oca, near the fountain of Fontebranda, Siena. She
is the youngest of the twenty-five children of Jacopo Benincasa, a dyer,
and Lapa, his wife.

1353-4. As a child, Catherine is peculiarly joyous and charming. When six
years old she beholds the vision of Christ, arrayed in priestly robes,
above the Church of St. Dominic. She is inspired by a longing to imitate
the life of the Fathers of the desert, and begins to practise many
penances. At the age of seven she makes the vow of virginity. She is drawn
to the Order of St. Dominic by the zeal of its founder for the salvation
of souls.

1359-1363. Her ascetic practices meet with sharp opposition at home. She
is urged to array herself beautifully and to marry, is denied a private
chamber, and forced to perform the menial work of the household, etc. In
time, however, her perseverance wins the consent of her father and family
to her desires.

1363-1364. She is vested with the black and white habit of Saint Dominic,
becoming one of the Mantellate, or Dominican tertiaries, devout women who
lived under religious rule in their own homes.

1364-1367. She leads in her own room at home the life of a religious
recluse, speaking only to her Confessor. She is absorbed in mystical
experiences and religious meditation. During this time she learns to read.
The period closes with her espousals to Christ, on the last day of
Carnival, 1367.

1367-1370. In obedience to the commands of God, and impelled by her love
of men, she returns gradually to family and social life. From this time
dates her special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. She joyfully devotes
herself to household labours, and to a life of ministration to the sick
and needy. In 1368 her father dies, and the Revolution puts an end to the
prosperity of the Benincasa family, which is now broken up. Catherine
seems to have retained to the end the care of Monna Lapa. In 1370 she dies
mystically and returns to life, having received the command to go abroad
into the world to save souls.

1370-1374. Her reputation and influence increase. A group of disciples
gathers around her. Her correspondence gradually becomes extensive, and
she becomes known as a peacemaker. At the same time, her ecstasies and
unusual mode of life excite criticism and suspicion. In May, 1374, she
visits Florence, perhaps summoned thither to answer charges made against
her by certain in the Order. She returns to Siena to minister to the
plague-stricken. She meets at this time Fra Raimondo of Capua, her
Confessor and biographer. Her gradual induction into public affairs is
accompanied by growing sorrow over the corruptions of the Church.

1375. At the invitation of Pietro Gambacorta, Catherine visits Pisa. Her
object is to prevent Pisa and Lucca from joining the League of Tuscan
cities against the Pope. She meets the Ambassador from the Queen of
Cyprus, and zealously undertakes to further the cause of a Crusade. On
April 1st she receives the Stigmata in the Church of Santa Cristina; but
the marks, at her request, remain invisible. She prophesies the Great
Schism. A brief visit to Lucca.

1376. Catherine receives Stefano Maconi as a disciple, and at his instance
reconciles the feud between the Maconi and the Tolomei. She attempts by
correspondence to reconcile Pope Gregory XI. and the Florentines. On April
1st the Divine Commission to bear the olive to both disputants is given
her in a vision. In May, at the request of the Florentines, she goes to
Florence. Sent as their representative to Avignon, she reaches that city
on June 18th. Gregory entrusts her with the negotiations for peace. The
Florentine ambassadors, however, delay their coming, and when they come
refuse to ratify her powers. Thwarted in this direction, she devotes all
her efforts to persuading the Pope to return to Rome, and triumphing over
all obstacles, succeeds. She leaves for home on September 13th, but is
retained for a month in Genoa, at the house of Madonna Orietta Scotta.
After a short visit at Pisa, she reaches Siena in December or January.

1377. Catherine converts the castle of Belcaro, conveyed to her by its
owner, into a monastery. She visits the Salimbeni in their feudal castle
at Rocca D'Orcia, for the purpose of healing their family feuds. While
here she learns miraculously to write. She also visits Sant' Antimo and

1378. Gregory, in failing health, perhaps regretting his return, becomes
alienated from Catherine. He sends her, however, to Florence, where she
stays in a house built for her by Niccolò Soderini, at the foot of the
hill of St. George. She succeeds in causing the Interdict to be respected,
but almost loses her life in a popular tumult, and keenly regrets not
having won the crown of martyrdom. After the death of Gregory, and the
establishment of the longed-for peace by Pope Urban, Catherine returns to
Siena, where she devotes herself to composing her "Dialogue." After the
outbreak of the Schism, Urban, whom she had known at Avignon, summons her
to Rome. She reluctantly obeys, and takes up her abode in that city on
November 28th, accompanied by a large group of disciples, her "Famiglia,"
who live together, subsisting on alms. From this time Catherine devotes
her whole powers to the cause of Urban. She is his trusted adviser, and
seeks earnestly to curb his impatient temper on the one hand, and to keep
the sovereigns of Europe faithful to him on the other. She writes on his
behalf to the Kings of France and Hungary, to Queen Giovanna of Naples, to
the magistrates of Italian cities, to the Italian cardinals who have
joined the Schism, and to others. Fra Raimondo, despatched to France, to
her grief and exaltation, evades his mission through timidity, to her
bitter disappointment, but does not return to Rome till after her death.
Catherine's health, always fragile, gives way under her unremitting
labours and her great sorrows.

1380. Catherine succeeds in quieting the revolt of the Romans against
Urban. She dedicates herself as a sacrificial victim, in expiation of the
sins of the Church and of the Roman people. In vision at St. Peter's, on
Sexagesima Sunday, the burden of the Ship of the Church descends upon her
shoulders. Her physical sufferings increase, and on April 30th she dies,
in the presence of her disciples.


1368-1369. Political Revolution in Siena. The compromise government of the
Riformatori is established. The Emperor Charles V. is summoned to the city
by the party worsted in the Revolution, joined by certain nobles. He
arrives in January, '69, but is forced to withdraw by a popular rising.
The nobles are excluded from the chief power and ravaged by feuds among

1372. Gregory XI. declares war against Bernabo Visconti of Milan, and
takes into his pay the English free-lance, Sir John Hawkwood. Peter
d'Estaing, appointed Legate of Bologna, makes truce with Bernabo. The
latter, however, continues secretly to incite Tuscany to rebel against the
Pope, inflaming the indignation of the Tuscans at the arbitrary policy of
the Papal Legates, and in particular of the Nuncio, Gerard du Puy, who is
supporting the claims of those turbulent nobles, the Salimbeni in Siena.
Catherine is in correspondence with both d'Estaing and Du Puy. On April
22nd, Gregory, in full consistory, announces his intention of returning to

1373. Italy is devastated by petty strife: "It seems as if a planet
reigned at this time which produced in the world the following effects:
That the Brothers of St. Austin killed their Provincial at Sant' Antonio
with a knife; and in Siena was much fighting. At Assisi the Brothers Minor
fought, and killed fourteen with a knife. And those of the Rose fought,
and drove six away. Also, those of Certosa had great dissensions, and
their General came and changed them all about. So all Religious everywhere
seemed to have strife and dissension among themselves. And every Religious
of whatever rule was oppressed and insulted by the world. So with brothers
according to the flesh--cousins, wives, relatives, and neighbours. It
seems that there were divisions all over the whole world. In Siena,
loyalty was neither proposed nor observed, gentlemen did not show it among
themselves nor outside, nor did the Nine among themselves or with outside
persons, nor did the Twelve. The people did not agree with their own
leader, nor exactly with any one else. Thus all the world was a place of
shadows."--_Chronicle of Neri di Donato_.

A Crusade publicly proclaimed by the Pope.

1374. Plague and famine lay Tuscany waste. William of Noellet, the Papal
Legate, refuses to allow corn to be imported into Tuscany from the Papal
States. Hawkwood, probably at his instigation, ravages the country, and
even threatens the city of Florence. Florence, enraged, rebels against the
Pope, and appoints from the ranks of the Ghibellines a new body of
Magistrates, known as the Eight of War. Meantime, Cione de' Salimbeni is
raiding the country around Siena. The roads through the Maremma are
insecure for peaceable folk, and the peasants are driven to take refuge in
the plague-stricken town.

1375. Eighty Italian cities join a League, headed by Florence, against the
Pope, with the watchword, "Fling off the foreign yoke."

1376. Gregory despatches ambassadors to the Eight of War, who scorn his
proposals. Florence incites Bologna to revolt, and the Legate flees. The
Papal Nuncio is flayed alive in the streets of Florence. The city is
placed under an Interdict. Envoys are despatched to Avignon, who set forth
eloquently, but to no avail, the grievances of the city. War is declared
against Florence by the Pope, and Count Robert of Geneva, with an army of
free-lances, is sent into Italy. Count Robert, laying waste the territory
of Bologna, summons Hawkwood to his aid, and perpetrates the hideous
massacre of Cesena. Catherine, sent to Avignon, fails to procure peace.
Gregory, swayed by her representations, returns to Italy, and reaches
Rome, after a difficult journey, on January 17th, 1377.

1378. Gregory, exhausted and disappointed by the continued discords in
Italy, dies in March. The Archbishop of Bari, known as Urban VI., is
appointed his successor. In July, peace is made with Florence, and the
Interdict upon the city is raised. The harsh measures of Urban in dealing
with the clergy arouse violent antagonism. In June, the Cardinals begin to
circulate rumours challenging the validity of the election, and on
September 20th they formally announce that the election was invalid,
having been forced on them by fear, and appoint as Pope the Cardinal
Robert of Geneva, who takes the name of Clement VII.

1379-1380. The Great Schism divides Europe. England remains faithful to
Urban: France and Naples, after wavering, declare for Clement. War rages
between the two Popes. The schismatic forces gain possession of the Castle
of Saint Angelo at Rome, but are driven out by the forces of Urban, who in
gratitude marches barefoot in solemn procession from Santa Maria in
Trastevere, to St. Peter's. The city, however, later revolts against
Urban, but is reconciled to him, partly through the efforts of Catherine.
Queen Giovanna of Naples, having conspired against Urban's life, is



The young widow of noble family to whom this letter was written was the
most cherished among Catherine's women friends. She seems, as often
happens with the chosen companion of a fervent and powerful nature, to
have been a person simple, lovable, and quietly wise. Having after her
husband's death assumed the habit of St. Dominic, she distributed her
possessions to the poor by Catherine's advice, but she evidently retained
her home in Siena. This became a constant refuge for the saint from the
overcrowded Benincasa household, and the scene of more than one charming
episode in her life as told by the legend. For the Mantellate, or
tertiaries of St. Dominic, were not cloistered, nor did they take the
monastic vows; they simply lived in their own homes a life of special

To Alessa, Catherine left on her deathbed the care of her spiritual
family. This intimate little letter dates from an early period in their
friendship. In its homely, practical wisdom, as in the gentle loftiness of
its tone, it shows the watchful and loving care with which Catherine
entered into the details of the daily life of those whom she sought to
lead with her in the way of salvation. The tests she proposes are as
penetrating to-day as they were then.

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

Dearest daughter in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, thy poor unworthy
mother, want thee to attain that perfection for which God has chosen thee.
It seems to me that one wishing so to attain should walk with and not
without moderation. And yet every work of ours ought to be done both
without and with moderation: it befits us to love God without moderation,
putting to that love neither limit nor measure nor rule, but loving Him
immeasurably. And if thou wish to reach the perfection of love, it befits
thee to set thy life in order. Let thy first rule be to flee the
conversation of every human being, in so far as it is simply conversation,
except as deeds of charity may demand; but to love people very much, and
talk with few of them. And know how to talk in moderation even with those
whom thou lovest with spiritual love; reflect that if thou didst not do
this, thou wouldst place a limit before perceiving it to that limitless
love which thou oughtest to bear to God, by placing the finite creature
between you: for the love which thou shouldst place in God thou wouldst
place in the creature, loving it without moderation; and this would hinder
thy perfection. Therefore thou shouldst love it spiritually, in a
disciplined way.

Be a vase, which thou fillest at the source and at the source dost drink
from. Although thou hadst drawn thy love from God, who is the Source of
living water, didst thou not drink it continually in Him thy vase would
remain empty. And this shall be the sign to thee that thou dost not drink
wholly in God: when thou sufferest from that which thou lovest, either by
some talk thou didst hold, or because thou wast deprived of some
consolation thou wast used to receiving, or for some other accidental
cause. If thou sufferest, then, from this or anything else except wrong
against God, it is a clear sign to thee that this love is still imperfect,
and drawn far from the Source. What way is there, then, to make the
imperfect perfect? This way: to correct and chastise the movements of thy
heart with true self-knowledge, and with hatred and distaste for thy
imperfection, that thou art such a peasant as to give to the creature that
love which ought to be given wholly to God, loving the creature without
moderation, and God moderately. For love toward God should be without
measure, and that for the creature should be measured by that for God, and
not by the measure of one's own consolations, either spiritual or
temporal. So do, then, that thou lovest everything in God, and correct
every inordinate affection.

Make two homes for thyself, my daughter. One actual home in thy cell, that
thou go not running about into many places, unless for necessity, or for
obedience to the prioress, or for charity's sake; and another spiritual
home, which thou art to carry with thee always--the cell of true self-
knowledge, where thou shalt find within thyself knowledge of the goodness
of God. These are two cells in one, and when abiding in the one it behoves
thee to abide in the other, for otherwise the soul would fall into either
confusion or presumption. For didst thou rest in knowledge of thyself,
confusion of mind would fall on thee; and didst thou abide in the
knowledge of God alone, thou wouldst fall into presumption. The two, then,
must be built together and made one same thing; if thou dost this, thou
wilt attain perfection. For from self-knowledge thou wilt gain hatred of
thine own fleshliness, and through hate thou wilt become a judge, and sit
upon the seat of thy conscience, and pass judgment; and thou wilt not let
a fault go without giving sentence on it.

From such knowledge flows the stream of humility; which never seizes on
mere report, nor takes offence at anything, but bears every insult, every
loss of consolation, and every sorrow, from whatever direction they may
come, patiently, with joy. Shames appear glory, and great persecutions
refreshment; and it rejoices in all, seeing itself punished for that
perverse law of self-will in its members which for ever rebels against
God; and it sees itself conformed with Christ Jesus crucified, the way and
the doctrine of truth.

In the knowledge of God thou shalt find the fire of divine charity. Where
shalt thou rejoice? Upon the Cross, with the Spotless Lamb, seeking His
honour and the salvation of souls, through continual, humble prayer. Now
herein is all our perfection. There are many other things also, but this
is the chief, from which we receive so much light that we cannot err in
the lesser works that follow.

Rejoice, my daughter, to conform thee to the shame of Christ. And watch
over the impulse of the tongue, that the tongue may not always respond to
the impulse of the heart; but digest what is in thy heart, with hatred and
distaste for thyself. Do thou be the least of the least, subject in
humility and patience to every creature through God; not making excuses,
but saying: the fault is mine. Thus are vices conquered in thy soul and in
the soul of him to whom thou shouldest so speak: through the virtue of

Order thy time: the night to vigil, when thou hast paid the debt of sleep
to thy body; and the morning in church with sweet prayer; do not spend it
in chatting until the appointed hour. Let nothing except necessity, or
obedience, or charity, as I said, draw thee away from this or anything
else. After the hour of eating, recollect thyself a little, and then do
something with thy hands, as thou mayest need. At the hour of vespers, do
thou go and keep quiet; and as much as the Holy Spirit enjoins on thee,
that do. Then go back and take care of thy old mother without negligence,
and provide what she needs; be thine this burden. More when I return. So
do that thou mayest fulfil my desire. I say no more. Remain in the holy
and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


One questions whether Catherine's brother would have relished the
admonitions of his saintly sister, had he known what we learn through her
biographer: that, feeling the temporal prosperity of her family to be a
snare to them, she had earnestly prayed that they might fall into poverty.
The petition was promptly granted: worldly losses, and the departure of
two of the brothers for Florence, followed upon the Sienese Revolution of
1368. Apparently, family misunderstandings accompanied these
readjustments. In the first of the present letters Catherine takes her
elder brother to task for neglect of his mother, Monna Lapa. We do not
know the effect of her remarks, but we do know that in the large family of
twenty-four, no one except Catherine herself--first recluse, and later
busy woman of affairs as she was--seems to have carried the
responsibility for the mother's welfare. The mother lived for the most
part with her great daughter, except when public interests took Catherine
away from home--occasions to which poor Monna Lapa was never reconciled.

In the second of these notes, Catherine comforts her brother very sweetly,
probably for the loss of his wealth. But if we may judge from the nature
of the reflections addressed to him, the spiritual instruction by which
Benincasa was capable of profiting was extremely elementary in character.

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

Dearest brother in Christ Jesus: I Catherine, a useless servant, comfort
and bless thee and invite thee to a sweet and most holy patience, for
without patience we could not please God. So I beg you, in order that you
may receive the fruit of your tribulations, that you assume the armour of
patience. And should it seem very hard to you to endure your many
troubles, bear in memory three things, that you may endure more patiently.
First, I want you to think of the shortness of your time, for on one day
you are not certain of the morrow. We may truly say that we do not feel
past trouble, nor that which is to come, but only the moment of time at
which we are. Surely, then, we ought to endure patiently, since the time
is so short. The second thing is, for you to consider the fruit which
follows our troubles. For St. Paul says there is no comparison between our
troubles and the fruit and reward of supernal glory. The third is, for you
to consider the loss which results to those who endure in wrath and
impatience; for loss follows this here, and eternal punishment to the

Therefore I beg you, dearest brother, to endure in all patience. And I
would not have it escape your mind that you should correct you of your
ingratitude, and your ignoring of the duty you owe your mother, to which
you are held by the commandment of God. I have seen your ingratitude
multiply so that you have not even paid her the due of help that you owe:
to be sure, I have an excuse for you in this, because you could not; but
if you had been able, I do not know that you would have done it, since you
have left her in scarcity even of words. Oh, ingratitude! Have you not
considered the sorrow of her labour, nor the milk that she drew from her
breast, nor the many troubles that she has had, over you and all the
others? And should you say to me that she has had no compassion on us, I
say that it is not so; for she has had so much on you and the other that
it costs her dear. But suppose it were true--you are under obligation to
her, not she to you. She did not take her flesh from you, but gave you
hers. I beg you to correct this fault and others, and to pardon my
ignorance. For did I not love your soul, I would not say to you what I do.
Remember your confession, you and all your family. I say no more to you.
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 and most beloved brother in Christ Jesus: I Catherine, servant and
slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, comfort you in the Precious Blood
of the Son of God: with desire to see you wholly in accord with the Will
of God, and transformed thereby; knowing that this is a sweet and holy
yoke which makes all bitterness turn into sweetness. Every great burden
becomes light beneath this most holy yoke of the sweet will of God,
without which thou couldst not please God, but wouldst know a foretaste of
Hell. Comfort you, comfort you, dearest brother, and do not faint beneath
this chastisement of God; but trust that when human help fails, divine
help is near. God will provide for you. Reflect that Job lost his
possessions and his sons and his health: his wife remained to him for a
perpetual scourge; and then, when God had tested his patience, He restored
everything to him double, and at the end eternal life. Patient Job never
was perturbed, but would say, always exercising the virtue of holy
patience, "God gave them to me, God has taken them from me; the Name of
God be blessed." So I want you to do, dearest brother: be a lover of
virtue, with holy patience, often using confession, which will as often
help you to endure your afflictions. And I tell you, God will show His
benignity and mercy, and will reward you for every affliction which you
shall have borne for His love. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God.
Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


It is in her letters to persons leading the dedicated life that one can
most clearly study Catherine's own inner experience. When warning and
consoling them, she is speaking to herself. This obscure girl had a way of
writing to the great of this earth--and indeed to the very Fathers of
Christendom--with the straightforward simplicity of a teacher instructing
childish minds in the evident rudiments of virtue. Often the sanctified
common sense of her letters to dignitaries is the most noticeable thing
about them. But when she turns to a holy hermit, the tone changes. The
commonplaces of the moral life are assumed or left behind; she speaks to a
soul that has presumably already brought its will into accord with the
divine will in regard to all outward happenings, and she takes calmly for
granted that this is a light and little thing. We proceed to the analysis
of temptations more subtle and more alluring. Catherine has few superiors
among religious thinkers in the power to trace self-will to its remotest
lairs, in the deeper reaches of personality. In letters to such
correspondents as Frate Antonio she often gives us, as here, precious
records of her intercourse with her Lord.

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

To you, most beloved and dearest father and brother in Christ Jesus: I
Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write and
commend me in the Precious Blood of the Son of God, with desire to see you
kindled and inflamed in the furnace of divine charity and your own self-
will--the will that robs us of all life--consumed therein. Let us open our
eyes, dearest brother, for we have two wills--one of the senses, which
seeks the things of sense, and the other the self-will of the spirit,
which, under aspect and colour of virtue, holds firm to its own way. And
this is clear when it wants to choose places and seasons and consolations
to suit itself, and says: "Thus I wish in order to possess God more
fully." This is a great cheat, and an illusion of the devil; for not being
able to deceive the servants of God through their first will--since the
servants of God have already mortified it so far as the things of sense
go--the devil catches their second will on the sly with things of the
spirit. So many a time the soul receives consolation, and then later feels
itself deprived thereof by God; and another experience will harrow it,
which will give less consolation and more fruit. Then the soul, which is
inspired by what gives sweetness, suffers when deprived of it, and feels
annoyance. And why annoyance? Because it does not want to be deprived; for
it says, "I seem to love God more in this way than in that. From the one I
feel that I bear some fruit, and from the other I perceive no fruit at
all, except pain and ofttimes many conflicts; and so I seem to wrong God."
Son and brother in Christ Jesus, I say that this soul is deceived by its
self-will. For it would not be deprived of sweetness; with this bait the
devil catches it. Frequently men lose time in longing for time to suit
themselves, for they do not employ what they have otherwise than in
suffering and gloominess.

Once our sweet Saviour said to a very dear daughter of His, "Dost thou
know how those people act who want to fulfil My will in consolation and in
sweetness and joy? When they are deprived of these things, they wish to
depart from My will, thinking to do well and to avoid offence; but false
sensuality lurks in them, and to escape pains it falls into offence
without perceiving it. But if the soul were wise and had the light of My
will within, it would look to the fruit and not to the sweetness. What is
the fruit of the soul? Hatred of itself and love of Me. This hate and love
are the issue of self-knowledge; then the soul knows its faulty self to be
nothing, and it sees in itself My goodness, which keeps its will good; and
it sees what a person I have made it, in order that it may serve Me in
greater perfection, and judges that I have made it for the best, and for
its own greatest good. Such a man as this, dearest daughter, does not wish
for time to suit himself, because he has learned humility; knowing his
infirmity, he does not trust in his own wish, but is faithful to Me. He
clothes him in My highest and eternal will, because he sees that I neither
give nor take away, save for your sanctification; and he sees that love
alone impels Me to give you sweetness and to take it from you. For this
cause he cannot grieve over any consolation that might be taken from him
within or without, by demon or fellow-creature--because he sees that, were
this not for his good, I should not permit it. Therefore this man rejoices
because he has light within and without, and is so illumined that when the
devil approaches his mind with shadows to confuse him, saying, 'This is
for thy sins,' he replies like a person who shrinks not from suffering,
saying, 'Thanks be to my Creator, who has remembered me in the time of
shadows, punishing me by pain in finite time. Great is this love, which
will not punish me in the infinite future.' Oh, what tranquillity of mind
has this soul, because it has freed itself from the self-will which brings
storm! But not thus does he whose self-will is lively within, seeking
things after his own way! For he seems to think that he knows what he
needs better than I. Many a time he says, 'It seems to me that I am
wronging God in this: free me from wrong, and let what He wills be done.'
This is a sign that you are freed from wrong, when you see in yourself
goodwill not to want to wrong God, and displeasure with sin; thence ought
you to take hope. Although all external activities and inward consolations
should fail, let goodwill to please God ever remain firm. Upon this rock
is founded grace. If thou sayest, I do not seem to have it, I say that
this is false, for if thou hadst it not, thou wouldst not fear to wrong
God. But it is the devil who makes things look so, in order that the soul
may fall into confusion and disordered sadness, and hold firm its self-
will, by wanting consolations, times and seasons in its own way. Do not
believe him, dearest daughter, but let your soul be always ready to endure
sufferings in howsoever God may inflict them. Otherwise you would do like
a man who stands on the threshold with a light in his hand, who reaches
his hand out and casts light outside, and within it is dark. Such is a man
who is already united in outward things with the will of God, despising
the world; but within, his spiritual self-will is living still, veiled in
the colour of virtue." Thus spoke God to that servant of His spoken of

Therefore I said that I wished and desired that your will should be
absorbed and transformed in Him, while we hold ourselves always ready to
bear pains and toils howsoever God chooses to send them to us. So we shall
be freed from darkness and abide in light. Amen. Praised be Jesus Christ
crucified and sweet Mary.


Catherine is well aware that the world can be as true a school of holiness
as the forest cell. She writes to the noble lady, Monna Agnese Malavolti,
in much the same strain as to Frate Antonio. The danger of spiritual self-
will forms indeed one of those recurring themes which pervade her letters
like the motifs of Wagnerian music--ever the same, yet woven into ever-
new harmonies.

But the general subject of this letter is the "Santissima Pazienza," which
is still frequently invoked by the common folk of Siena: and Catherine's
analysis searches deep. Patience could hardly have been one of the virtues
most native to the woman's valiant spirit, and one feels in her keen and
solemn meditations that she had herself known the bitter and corroding
power of the sin "that burns and does not consume," and that "makes the
soul unendurable to itself." It is with convincing fervour and fulness
that she presents impatience as the permanent condition of the lost. The
little discussion of impatience in human relations, and of the "proud
humility" resorted to by a soul ravaged by a sense of neglect, has also a
very personal note. But it is still more clear in the letter that
Catherine's had become the disciplined nature which can "endure a restless
mind with more reverence than a tranquil one," if such be the will of God,
and which has entered deeply into the joy that awaits the meek.

Monna Agnese must have stood in special need of these touching
exhortations: she was a woman sorrowfully tried. Her son had been beheaded
in 1372, in punishment for heinous sin; and now her only daughter had
died. "For the which thing," writes Catherine, with one of her own
inimitable phrases, "I am deeply content, with a holy compassion."

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 the
desire to see you established in true patience, since I consider that
without patience we cannot please God. For just as impatience gives much
pleasure to the devil and to one's own lower nature, and revels in nothing
but anger when it misses what the lower nature wants, so it is very
displeasing to God. It is because anger and impatience are the very pith
and sap of pride that they please the devil so much. Impatience loses the
fruit of its labour, deprives the soul of God; it begins by knowing a
foretaste of hell, and later it brings men to eternal damnation: for in
hell the evil perverted will burns with anger, hate and impatience. It
burns and does not consume, but is evermore renewed--that is, it never
grows less, and therefore I say, it does not consume. It has indeed
parched and consumed grace in the souls of the lost, but as I said it has
not consumed their being, and so their punishment lasts eternally. The
saints say that the damned ask for death and cannot have it, because the
soul never dies. It dies to be sure to grace, by mortal sin; but it does
not die to existence. There is no sin nor wrong that gives a man such a
foretaste of hell in this life as anger and impatience. It is hated by
God, it holds its neighbour in aversion, and has neither knowledge nor
desire to bear and forbear with its faults. And whatever is said or done
to it, it at once empoisons, and its impulses blow about like a leaf in
the wind. It becomes unendurable to itself, for perverted will is always
gnawing at it, and it craves what it cannot have; it is discordant with
the will of God and with the rational part of its own soul. And all this
comes from the tree of Pride, from which oozes out the sap of anger and
impatience. The man becomes an incarnate demon, and it is much worse to
fight with these visible demons than with the invisible. Surely, then,
every reasonable being ought to flee this sin.

But note, that there are two sources of impatience. There is a common kind
of impatience, felt by ordinary men in the world, which befalls them on
account of the inordinate love they have for themselves and for temporal
things, which they love apart from God; so that to have them they do not
mind losing their soul, and putting it into the hands of the devils. This
is beyond help, unless a man recognizes himself, how he has wronged God,
and cuts down that tree of Pride with the sword of true humility, which
produces charity in the soul. For there is a tree of Love, whose pith is
patience and goodwill toward one's neighbour. For, just as impatience
shows more clearly than any other sin that the soul is deprived of God--
because it is at once evident that since the pith is there, the tree of
Pride must be there--so patience shows better and more perfectly than any
other virtue, that God is in the soul by grace. Patience, I say, deep
within the tree of Love, that for love of its Creator disdains the world,
and loves insults whencesoever they come.

I was saying that anger and impatience were of two kinds, one general and
one special. We have spoken of the common kind. Now I talk of the more
particular, of the impatience of those who have already despised the
world, and who wish to be servants of Christ crucified in their own way;
that is, in so far as they shall find joy and consolation in Him. This is
because spiritual self-will is not dead in them: therefore they
imperiously demand from God that He should give them consolations and
tribulations in their own way, and not in His; and so they become
impatient, when they get the contrary of what their spiritual self-will
wants. This is a little offshoot from Pride, sprouting from real Pride, as
a tree sends out a little tree by its side, which looks separated from it,
but nevertheless it gets the substance from which it springs from the same
tree. So is self-will in the soul which chooses to serve God in its own
way; and when that way fails it suffers, and its suffering makes it
impatient, and it is unendurable to itself, and takes no pleasure in
serving God or its neighbour. Nay, if any one came to it for comfort or
help it would give him nothing but reproaches, and would not know how to
be tolerant to his need. All this results from the sensitive spiritual
self-will that grows from the tree of Pride which was cut down, but not
uprooted. It is cut down when the soul uplifts its desire above the world,
and fastens it on God, but has fastened there imperfectly; the root of
Pride was left, and therefore it sent up an offshoot by its side, and
shows itself in spiritual things. So, if it misses consolations from God,
and its mind stays dry and sterile, it at once becomes disturbed and
depressed, and, under colour of virtue--because it thinks itself deprived
of God--it begins to complain, and lays down the law to God. But were it
truly humble and had true hate and knowledge of itself, it would deem
itself unworthy of the visitation of God to its soul, and worthy of the
pain that it suffers, in being deprived, not of God's grace in the soul,
but of its consolations. It suffers, then, because it has to work in its
chains; yes, spiritual self-will suffers under the delusion that it is
wronging God, while the trouble is really with its own lower nature.

Therefore the humble soul, which has freely uprooted with eager love the
root of Pride, has annulled its own will, seeking ever the honour of God
and the salvation of souls. It does not mind sufferings, but endures a
restless mind with more reverence than a quiet one; having a holy
respectful knowledge that God gives and grants this to it for its good,
that it may rise from imperfection to perfection. That is the way to make
it attain perfection, for it recognizes better thereby its own defects and
the grace of God, which it finds within, in the goodwill that God has
given it to hate its mortal sin. Also, by meditating on its defects and
faults, old and new, it has conceived hatred for itself, and love for the
Highest Eternal Will of God. Therefore it bears these things with
reverence, and is content to endure inwardly and outwardly, in whatever
way God grants it. Provided that it can be filled and clothed with the
sweetness of the will of God, it rejoices in everything; and the more it
sees itself deprived of the thing it loves, whether the consolations of
God, as I said, or of its fellows, the more gladsome it grows. For many a
time it happens that the soul loves spiritually; but if it does not find
the consolation or satisfaction from the beloved that it would like, or if
it suspects that more love or satisfaction is given to another than to
itself, it falls into suffering, into depression of mind, into criticism
of its neighbour and false judgment, passing judgment on the mind and
intention of the servants of God, and especially on those from whom it
suffers. Thence it becomes impatient, and thinks what it should not think,
and says with its tongue what it should not say. In such suffering as
this, it likes to resort to a proud humility, which has the aspect of
humility, but is really an offshoot of Pride, springing up beside it--
saying to itself: "I will not pay these people any more attention, or
trouble myself any more about them. I will keep entirely to myself; I do
not wish to hurt either myself or them." And it abases itself with a
perverted scorn. Now it ought to perceive that this is scorn, by the
impulse to judge that it feels in its heart, and by the complaints of its
tongue. It ought not then to do so; for in this fashion it will never get
rid of the root of Pride, nor cut off the little son at the side, which
hinders the soul from attaining the perfection at which it has aimed. But
it ought to kneel at the table of the Most Holy Cross, to receive the food
of the honour of God and the salvation of souls, with a free heart, with
holy hatred of itself, with passionate desire: seeking to gain virtue by
suffering and sweat, and not by private consolations either from God or
its fellows; following the footsteps and the teaching of Christ Crucified,
saying to itself with sharp rebuke: "Thou shouldst not, my soul, thou that
art a member, travel by another road than thy Head. An unfit thing it is
that limbs should remain delicate beneath a thorn-crowned Head." If such
habits became fixed, through one's own frailty, or the wiles of the devil,
or the many impulses that shake the heart like winds, then the soul ought
to ascend the seat of its conscience, and reason with itself, and let
nothing pass without punishment and chastisement, hatred and distaste for
itself. So the root shall be pulled up, and by displeasure against itself
the soul will drive out displeasure against its neighbour, grieving more
over the unregulated instincts of its own heart and thoughts than over the
suffering it could receive from its fellows, or any insult or annoyance
they could inflict on it.

This is the sweet and holy fashion observed by those who are wholly
inspired of Christ; for in this wise they have uprooted perverted pride,
and that marrow of impatience of which we said above that it was very
pleasing to the devil, because it is the beginning and occasion of every
sin; and on the contrary that as it is very pleasing to the devil, so it
is very displeasing to God. Pride displeases Him and humility pleases Him.
So greatly did the virtue of humility please Him in Mary that He was
constrained to give her the Word His Only-Begotten Son and she was the
sweet mother who gave Him to us. Know well, that until Mary showed by her
spoken words her humility and pure will, when she said: "Ecce Ancilla
Domini, be it done unto me according to Thy word"--the Son of God was not
incarnate in her; but when she had said this, she conceived within herself
that sweet and Spotless Lamb--the Sweet Primal Truth showing thereby how
excellent is this little virtue, and how much the soul receives that
offers and presents its will in humility to its Creator. So then--in the
time of labours and persecutions, of insults and injuries inflicted by
one's neighbour, of mental conflicts and deprivation of spiritual
consolations, by the Creator or the creature, (by the Creator in His
gentleness, when He withdraws the feeling of the mind, so that it does not
seem as if God were in the soul, so many are its pains and conflicts--and
by fellow-creatures, in conversation or amusement, or when the soul thinks
that it loves more than it is loved)--in all these things, I say that the
soul perfected by humility says: "My Lord, behold Thy handmaid: be it done
unto me according to Thy word, and not according to what I want with my
senses." So it sheds the fragrance of patience, around the Creator and its
fellow-creature and itself. It has peace and quiet in its mind, and it has
found peace in warfare, because it has driven far from it its self-will
founded in pride, and has conceived divine grace in its soul. And it bears
in its mind's breast Christ crucified, and rejoices in the Wounds of
Christ crucified, and seeks to know naught but Christ crucified; and its
bed is the Cross of Christ crucified. There it annuls its own will, and
becomes humble and obedient.

For there is no obedience without humility, nor humility without charity.
This is shown by the Word, for in obedience to His Father and in humility,
He ran to the shameful death of the Cross, nailing and binding Him with
the nails and bands of charity, and enduring in such patience that no cry
of complaint was heard from Him. For nails were not enough to hold God-
and-Man nailed and fastened on the Cross had Love not held Him there. This
I say that the soul feels; therefore it will not joy otherwise than with
Christ crucified. For could it attain to virtue and escape Hell and have
eternal life, without sufferings, and have in the world consolations
spiritual and temporal, it would not wish them; but it desires rather to
suffer, enduring even unto death, than to have eternal life in any other
way: only let it conform itself with Christ crucified, and clothe it with
His shames and pains. It has found the table of the Spotless Lamb.

Oh, glorious virtue! Who would not give himself to death a thousand times,
and endure any suffering through desire to win thee? Thou art a queen, who
dost possess the entire world; thou dost inhabit the enduring life; for
while the soul that is arrayed in thee is yet mortal, thou makest it abide
by force of love with those who are immortal. Since, then, this virtue is
so excellent and pleasing to God and useful to us and saving to our
neighbour, arise, dearest daughter, from the sleep of negligence and
ignorance, casting to earth the weakness and frailty of thy heart, that it
feel no suffering nor impatience over anything that God permits to us, so
that we may not fall either into the common kind of impatience, or into
the special kind, as we were saying before, but serve our sweet Saviour
manfully, with liberty of heart and true perfect patience. If we do
otherwise, we shall lose grace by the first sort of impatience, and by the
second we shall hinder our state of perfection; and you would not attain
that to which God has called you.

It seems that God is calling you to great perfection. And I perceive it by
this, that He takes away from you every tie that might hinder it in you.
For as I have heard, it seems that He has called to Himself your daughter,
who was your last tie with the outer world. For which thing I am deeply
content, with a holy compassion, that God should have set you free, and
taken her from her labours. Now then, I want that you should wholly
destroy your own will, that it may cling to nothing but Christ crucified.
In this way you will fulfil His will and my desire. Therefore, not knowing
any other way in which you could fulfil it, I said to you that I desired
to see you established in true and holy patience, because without this we
cannot reach our sweet goal. I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet
grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Two nieces, daughters of Bartolo Benincasa, were nuns in the Convent of
Montepulciano. To one of them the following letter is addressed. One can
read between the lines a lively solicitude. Never cloistered herself,
Catherine had a close intimacy with cloisters, and knew their best and
worst. She held in hearty and loyal respect the opportunities which they
offered for leading an exalted life; to this Convent of St. Agnes she was
peculiarly attached. At the same time, she was well aware, as other
letters beside the present show, that even the best of cloisters afforded
at this time scant shelter to young girls from emotional temptation, gross
or fine. Her warnings to her niece have the authoritative tone of anxiety.
Let us hope that Eugenia took them to heart; and that, leading the
disciplined life of Catherine's desire, she became not unworthy to receive
and apprehend in its full beauty the penetrating meditation on Prayer
which forms the second part of the letter. The thoughts of this
meditation, like many others in Catherine's letters, will be found
amplified in her Dialogue--a colloquy between God and her soul, composed
and dictated in trance during the year 1378. The following quotation
illustrates an interesting passage of the letter:--

"In this way, vocal prayer can be useful to the soul and do Me pleasure,
and from imperfect vocal prayer it can advance by persevering practice to
perfect mental prayer. But if it aims simply to complete its number (of
paternosters), or if it gave up mental prayer for the sake of vocal, it
would never arrive at perfection. Sometimes, when a soul has made a
resolution to say a certain number of prayers, I may visit its mind, now
in one way, now in another: at one time with the light of self-knowledge
and contrition over its lightness, at another, with the largesse of My
charity; at another, by putting before its mind, in diverse manner as may
please Me, and as that soul may have craved, the Presence of My Truth. And
the soul will be so ignorant that it will turn from My Visitation, in
order to complete its number, from a conscientious scruple against giving
up what it began. It ought not to do thus, for this would be a wile of the
devil. But at once, when it feels its mind ready for My Visitation, in any
way, as I said, it should abandon the vocal prayer. Then, when the mental
has passed, if there is time it can resume the other, which it had planned
to say. But if there is not time it must not care nor be troubled or

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 thee in His precious Blood, with
desire to see thee taste the food of angels, since thou art made for no
other end; and that thou mightest taste it, God bought thee with the Blood
of His Only-Begotten Son. But reflect, dearest daughter, that this food is
not taken upon earth, but on high, and therefore the Son of God chose to
be lifted up upon the wood of the Most Holy Cross, in order that we might
receive this food upon this table on high. But thou wilt say to me: What
is this food of angels? I reply to thee: it is the desire of God, which
draws to itself the desire that is in the depths of the soul, and they
make one thing together.

This is a food which while we are pilgrims in this life, draws to itself
the fragrance of true and sincere virtues, which are prepared by the fire
of divine charity, and received upon the table of the cross. That is,
virtue is won by pain and weariness, casting down one's own fleshly
nature;--the kingdom of one's soul which is called Heaven (_cielo_)
because it hides (_cela_) God within it by patience, is seized with force
and violence. This is the food that makes the soul angelic, and therefore
it is called the food of angels; and also because the soul, separated from
the body, tastes God in His essential Being. He satisfies the soul in such
wise that she longs for no other thing nor can desire aught but what may
help her more perfectly to keep and increase this food, so that she holds
in hate what is contrary to it. Therefore, like a prudent person, she
looks with the light of most holy faith, which is in the eye of the mind,
and beholds what is harmful and what is useful to her. And as she has
seen, so she loves and condemns--holding, I say, her own fleshly nature
and all the vices which proceed from it, bound beneath the feet of her
affections. She flees all causes that may incline her to vice or hinder
her perfection. So she annuls her self-will, which is the cause of all
evil, and subjects it to the yoke of holy obedience, not only to the Order
and its chief, but to every least creature through God. She flees all
glory and human indulgence, and glories only in the shames and sorrows of
Christ crucified: insults, outrage, ridicule, injuries, are milk to her;
she joys in them, to be conformed with the Bridegroom, Christ crucified.
She renounces conversation with fellow-beings, because she sees that they
often intervene between us and our Creator, and she flees to the actual
and to the mental cell.

To this I summon thee and the others: and I command thee, dearest daughter
mine, that thou abide for ever in the cell of self-knowledge, where we
find the angelic food of the eager desire of God toward us; and in the
actual cell, with vigil and humble faithful continual prayer, divesting
thy heart and mind of every creature, and clothing them with Christ
crucified. Otherwise thou wouldst eat upon the earth, and there I have
already said to thee, one should not eat. Reflect that thy Bridegroom,
Christ sweet Jesus, wishes naught between thee and Him, and is very
jealous. So as soon as He saw that thou didst love any thing apart from
Him, He would go from thee, and thou wouldst be made worthy to eat the
food of beasts. And wouldst thou not truly be a beast, and food for
beasts, didst thou leave the Creator for the creature, and infinite good
for finite and transitory things that pass like the winds, light for
darkness, life for death, Him who clothes thee in the sun of justice with
the clasp of obedience, and pearls of living faith, firm hope, and perfect
charity, for him who robs thee of them? And wouldst thou not be foolish
indeed to depart from Him who gives thee perfect purity--so that the
closer thou dost cling to Him, the more the flower of thy virginity is
refined--for those who many a time and oft shed a stench of impurity,
defiling mind and body? God avert them from thee by His infinite mercy!

And in order that no such thing may ever happen to thee, be on thy guard:
let not thy misfortune be such as to enter into any private conversation,
with monk or layman. For if I were to know or hear it, even if I were much
farther away than I am, I would give thee such a discipline that it would
stay in thy memory all thy whole life; never mind who may be by. Beware
neither to give nor receive, except in case of need, helping every one in
common within and without. Be steadfast and mature in thyself. Serve the
sisters tenderly, with all vigilance, especially those whom thou seest in
need. When guests pass by and ask for thee at the gratings, abide in thy
peace and do not go--but let them say to the prioress what they wanted to
say to thee, unless she commands thee to go on thy obedience. Then, hold
thy head bowed, and be as savage as a hedgehog. Keep in thy mind the
manners which that glorious virgin Saint Agnes made her daughters observe.
Go to confession and tell thy need; and when thou hast received thy
penance, run. Beware, moreover, that thy confessors be not from the men
who have brought thee up. And do not wonder because I talk so; for many a
time thou mayest have heard me say, and it is the truth, that the talk of
so-called pious men and women, full of depraved expressions, ruins the
souls and the habits and practices of Religious. Beware that thou bind thy
heart to none but Christ crucified; for the hour would come when thou
wouldst wish to set it free and couldst not, which would be very hard for
thee. I say that the soul which has tasted of the food of angels has seen
in the light that this and the other things we were speaking of are an
obstacle between itself and its food, and therefore flees them with the
greatest zeal. I say that it loves and seeks what may increase and
preserve it. And because it has seen that this food is better enjoyed by
means of prayer offered in self-knowledge, therefore it exercises itself
therein continually by all the ways in which it can hold closer to God.

Prayer is of three sorts. The one is perpetual: it is the holy perpetual
desire, which prays in the sight of God, whatever thou art doing; for this
desire directs all thy works, spiritual and corporal, to His honour, and
therefore it is called perpetual. Of this it seems that Saint Paul the
glorious was talking when he said: Pray without ceasing. The other kind is
vocal prayer, when the offices or other prayers are said aloud. This is
ordained to reach the third--that is, mental prayer: your soul reaches
this when it uses vocal prayer in prudence and humility, so that while the
tongue speaks the heart is not far from God. But one must exert one's self
to hold and establish one's heart in the force of divine charity. And
whenever one felt one's mind to be visited by God, so that it was drawn to
think of its Creator in any wise, it ought to abandon vocal prayer, and to
fix its mind with the force of love upon that wherein it sees God visit
it; then, if it has time, when this has ceased, it ought to take up the
vocal prayer again, in order that the mind may always stay full and not
empty. And although many conflicts of diverse kinds should abound in
prayer, and darkness of mind with much confusion, the devil making the
soul feel that her prayer was not pleasing to God--nevertheless, she ought
not to give up on account of those conflicts and shadows, but to abide
firm in fortitude and long perseverance, considering that the devil so
does to draw her away from prayer the mother, and God permits it to test
the fortitude and constancy of that soul. Also, in order that by those
conflicts and shadows she may know herself not to be, and in the goodwill
which she feels preserved within her may know the goodness of God, Who is
Giver and Preserver of good and holy wills: such wills as are not
vouchsafed to all who want them.

By this means she attains to the third and last--mental prayer, in which
she receives the reward for the labours she underwent in her imperfect
vocal prayer. Then she tastes the milk of faithful prayer. She rises above
herself--that is, above the gross impulses of the senses--and with angelic
mind unites herself with God by force of love, and sees and knows with the
light of thought, and clothes herself with truth. She is made the sister
of angels; she abides with her Bridegroom on the table of crucified
desire, rejoicing to seek the honour of God and the salvation of souls;
since well she sees that for this the Eternal Bridegroom ran to the
shameful death of the Cross, and thus fulfilled obedience to the Father,
and our salvation. This prayer is surely a mother, who conceives virtues
by the love of God, and brings them forth in the love of the neighbour.
Where dost thou show love, faith, and hope, and humility? In prayer. For
thou wouldst never take pains to seek the thing which thou didst not love;
but he who loves would ever be one with what he loves--that is, God. By
means of prayer thou askest of Him thy necessity; for knowing thyself--the
knowledge on which true prayer is founded--thou seest thyself to have
great need. Thou feelest thyself surrounded by thine enemies--by the world
with its insults and its recalling of vain pleasures, by the devil with
his many temptations, by the flesh with its great rebellion and struggle
against the spirit. And thou seest that in thyself thou art not; not
being, thou canst not help thyself; and therefore thou dost hasten in
faith to Him who is, who can and will help thee in thine every need, and
thou dost hopefully ask and await His aid. Thus ought prayer to be made,
if thou wishest to have that which thou awaitest. Never shall any just
thing be denied thee which thou askest in this wise from the Divine
Goodness; but if thou dost in other wise, little fruit shalt thou receive.
Where shalt thou feel grief in thy conscience? In prayer. Where shalt thou
divest thee of the self-love which makes thee impatient in the time of
insults and of other pains, and shalt clothe thee in the divine love which
shall make thee patient, and shalt glory in the Cross of Christ crucified?
In prayer. Where shalt thou breathe the perfume of virginity and the
hunger for martyrdom, holding thee ready to give thy life for the honour
of God and the salvation of souls? In this sweet mother, prayer. This will
make thee an observer of thy Rule: it will seal in thy heart and mind
three solemn vows which thou didst make at thy profession, leaving there
the imprint of the desire to observe them until death. This releases thee
from conversation with fellow-creatures, and gives thee converse with thy
Creator; it fills the vessel of thy heart with the Blood of the Humble
Lamb, and crowns it with flame, because with flame of love that Blood was

The soul receives and tastes this mother Prayer more or less perfectly,
according as it nourishes itself with the food of angels--that is, with
holy and true desire for God, raising itself on high, as I said, to
receive it upon the table of the most sweet Cross. Therefore I said to
thee that I desired to see thee nourished with angelic food, because I see
not that in otherwise thou couldst be a true bride of Christ crucified,
consecrated to Him in holy religion. So do that I may see thee a jewel
precious in the sight of God. And do not go about wasting thy time. Bathe
and drown thee in the sweet Blood of thy Bridegroom. I say no more. Remain
in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


This tender and playful little letter, with its childlike simplicity of
fancy and gentle authority of tone, encourages us to believe that
Catherine appreciated the full advantages of being an aunt. We have other
indications that the many spiritual ties which held her as she grew older
never weakened the bond of any natural affection. Indeed, Catherine re-
created each natural bond, when possible, as a spiritual bond, an
achievement none too common. Doubtless, many children grew up around her
in the large Benincasa household. We know that at the time of the plague,
in 1374, Lapa was bringing up eleven grandchildren in her own house. Of
these, eight fell victims to the pestilence, and we have a glimpse of
Catherine burying them with her own hands, and saying as she laid them to
rest one by one, "This one, at least, I shall not lose." Of the little
Nanna to whom this letter was written we know nothing, except that she was
the child of the elder brother, who, as we have already seen, had moved to

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 thee in His precious Blood, with
desire to see thee a real bride of Christ crucified, running away from
everything which might hinder thee from possessing this sweet and glorious
Bridegroom. But thou couldst not do this if thou wert not among those wise
virgins consecrated to Christ who had lamps with oil in them, and light
was within. See, then, if thou wishest to be a bride of Christ, thou must
have lamp, and oil, and light. Dost thou know what this means, daughter
mine? By the lamp is meant our heart, because a heart ought to be made
like a lamp. Thou seest that a lamp is wide above and narrow below, and so
the heart is made, to signify that we ought always to keep it wide above,
through holy thoughts and holy imaginations and continual prayer; always
holding in memory the blessings of God, and chiefly the blessing of the
Blood by which we are bought. For Blessed Christ, my daughter, did not buy
us with gold or silver or pearls or other precious stones; nay, He bought
us with His precious Blood. So one wants never to forget so great a
blessing, but always to hold it before one's eyes, in holy and sweet
gratitude, seeing how immeasurably God loves us: who did not shrink from
giving His only begotten Son to the opprobrious death of the Cross, to
give us the life of grace.

I said that a lamp is narrow below, and so is our heart: to signify that
the heart ought to be narrow toward these earthly things--that is, it must
not desire nor love them extravagantly, nor hunger for more than God wills
to give us; but ever thank Him, seeing how sweetly He provides for us so
that we never lack anything.

Now in this way, our heart will really be a lamp. But reflect, daughter
mine, that this would not be enough were there no oil within. By oil is
meant that sweet little virtue, profound humility: for it is fitting that
the bride of Christ be humble and gentle and patient; and she will be as
humble as she is patient, and as patient as she is humble. But we cannot
attain this virtue of humility except by true knowledge of ourselves,
knowing our misery and frailty, and that we by ourselves can do no good
deed, nor escape any conflict or pain; for if we have a bodily infirmity,
or a pain or conflict in our minds, we cannot escape it or remove it--for
if we could we should escape from it swiftly. So it is quite true that we
in ourselves are nothing other than infamy, misery, stench, frailty, and
sins; wherefore, we ought always to abide low and humble. But to abide
wholly in such knowledge of one's self would not be good, because the soul
would fall into weariness and confusion; and from confusion it would fall
into despair: so the devil would like nothing better than to make us fall
into confusion, to drive us afterward to despair. We ought, then, to abide
in the knowledge of the goodness of God in Himself, perceiving that He has
created us in His image and likeness, and re-created us in grace by the
Blood of His only-begotten Son, the sweet incarnate Lord; and reflecting
how continually the goodness of God works in us. But see, that to abide
entirely in this knowledge of God would not be good, because the soul
would fall into presumption and pride. So it befits us to have one mixed
with the other--that is, to abide in the holy knowledge of the goodness of
God, and also in the knowledge of ourselves: and so we shall be humble,
patient, and gentle, and in this way we shall have oil in our lamp.

Now, then, we must have light--otherwise it would not be enough. This
light has to be the light of most holy faith. But the saints say that
faith without works is dead, so our faith might be neither living nor
holy, but dead. Therefore we need to exert ourselves virtuously all the
time, and leave our childishness and vanities, and not behave any longer
like worldly girls, but like faithful brides consecrated to Christ
crucified; in this way we shall have a lamp, and oil, and light.

The Gospel says that these wise virgins were five. So I tell thee that
there must be five in each of us--otherwise we shall not enter the wedding
feast of eternal life.

By these five it is meant that we must subject and mortify our five bodily
senses, in such wise that we may never offend with them, taking through
them or some of them unregulated pleasure or delight. In this way we shall
be five, when we have subdued our five senses.

But think that that sweet Bridegroom Christ is more jealous of His brides
than I could tell thee! Therefore if He should see that thou didst love
anyone more than Him, He would be angry with thee at once. And if thou
didst not correct thyself, the door would not be open to thee, to the
wedding feast which Christ the Lamb without spot holds for all His
faithful: but we should be driven away like bad women, as those five
foolish virgins were, who, glorying only and vainly in the integrity and
virginity of their body, lost the virginity of their soul, through the
corruption of the five senses, because they did not carry the oil of
humility with them, so that their lamps went out. Therefore it was said to
them: "Go hence to buy oil." By this oil is meant in this place the
flatteries and praises of men; since all the flatterers and praisers of
the world sell this oil. As if it were said to them: "You have not wanted
to buy eternal life with your virginity and your good works; no, you have
wanted to buy the praises of men, and to have the praises of men you have
wrought. Go now and buy praises, for you will not enter here." Therefore,
daughter mine, beware of the praises of men; and do not want praise for
any work that thou mayest do, for the door of eternal life would not be
open to thee later.

So, reflecting that this was the best way, I said that I desired to see
thee a real bride of Christ crucified; and so I beg and command thee that
thou try hard to be. I say no more to thee. Remain in the holy and sweet
grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Catherine is known in history as one of the great ascetics of the Church;
these letters show her intimate attitude toward the mortification of the
flesh. She was a woman called of God and her natural powers, constantly to
assume the dangerous duty of convincing men of their sin; these letters
give us her conception of the safeguards needed in the performance of that

Both letters were written to Religious. Father William Flete was an
Englishman, who, passing through Italy in his youth, became fascinated
with the land, and spent the rest of his life in a hermit's cell in the
Forest of Lecceto. The annals of the time throw some entertaining side-
lights on his figure. Famous for his austerities and for the sanctity of
his life, he was also a very impatient and somewhat intolerant person,
given to carping criticism of his brother hermits. Catherine, in writing
to him, analyses mercilessly the dangers of the ascetic life; one feels
that not much self-righteousness could be left in a man after reading her
trenchant phrases. Soon, however, she lifts him with her to the ardent
contemplation of the perfect life; it is in words of singular beauty that
she describes the attitude of generous loving-kindness, uncritical, humble
and glad, with which the true servant of God considers all sorts and
conditions of men: "Such a man rejoices in every type that he sees,
saying: Thanks be to Thee, Eternal Father, that Thou hast many mansions in
Thy house.... He rejoices more in the differences among men than he would
in seeing them all walk in the same way; for so he sees more manifest the
greatness of the goodness of God. He gets from everything the fragrance of

In the letter to Sister Daniella, Catherine develops these ideas further.
Of this "great servant of God" nothing is known except what Catherine's
letters to her show. Something may be inferred from the fact that she is
one of the few people to whom the greater woman writes as to a spititual
equal. She repeats to Daniella the letter to Father William--such
warnings, indeed, being needed by all persons leading the consecrated
life--and then goes on, in the remainder of the letter as here given, to
discuss those farther reaches of perfection in which charity has done its
perfect work. Two things she wishes herself and Daniella to observe: the
first is abstinence from critical thoughts. Let us not "judge the minds of
our fellow-creatures, which are for God alone to judge." It is the key to
her own method in her great cure of souls which she here gives us: "When
it seems that God shows us the faults of others, keep on the safer side--
for it may be that thy judgment is false. On thy lips let silence abide.
And any vice which thou mayest ascribe to others, do thou ascribe at once
to them and to thyself, in true humility. If that vice really exists in a
person, he will correct himself better, seeing himself so gently
understood, and will say of his own accord the thing which thou wouldst
have said to him."--The other point which Catherine urges on Daniella is
the secondary importance of that life of mortification to which she firmly
believes that they have both been called. "Good is penance and maceration
of the body; but do not present these to me as a rule for every one. If
either for ourselves or others, we made penance our foundation ... we
should be ignorant, and should fall into a critical attitude, and become
weary and very bitter: for we should strive to give a finished work to
God, Who is Infinite Love, and demands from us only infinite desire."
Surely, in this last thought Catherine has attained in a flash to sublime
spiritual insight.

The Saints knew all about telepathy long before Societies of Psychical
Research grew eager over the matter. It might surprise some modern
psychologists to read the tranquil passage in which Catherine, assuming as
a matter of course that any servant of God engaged in intercessory prayer
has a mystical and direct knowledge of the condition of those she prays
for, proceeds to warn Daniella as intelligently as any modern could do,
though in different terms, as to the limitations within which this kind of
knowledge can be trusted.

The little note with which this group closes is not written to a great
recluse, but to a tailor's wife. With the simple, Catherine showed herself
simple; but Monna Agnese is to lead the consecrated life no less than
Sister Daniella. Catherine's plain directions to the one about her daily
living evince the same mental clarity and sobriety as her exhortations to
the other, and discriminate in much the same way between the excitement of
religious practices and true consecration.


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 in true light. For without light we shall not be able to walk
in the way of truth, but shall walk in shadows. Two lights are necessary.
First, we must be illumined to know the transitory things of the world,
which all pass like the wind. But these are not rightly known if we do not
know our own frailty, how inclined it is, from the perverse law which is
bound up with our members, to rebel against its Creator. This light is
necessary to every rational creature, in whatever state it may be, if it
wishes to have divine grace, and to share in the blessing of the Blood of
the Spotless Lamb. This is the common light, that everybody in general
ought to have, for whoever has it not is in a state of condemnation. This
is the reason; that, not having light, he is not in a state of grace; for
one who does not know the evil of wrong, nor who is cause of it, cannot
avoid it nor hate the cause. So he who does not know good, and virtue the
cause of good, cannot love nor desire that good.

The soul must not stay content because it has arrived at gaining the
general light; nay, it ought to go on with all zeal to the perfect light.
For since men are at first imperfect rather than perfect, they should
advance in light to perfection. Two kinds of perfect people walk in this
perfect light. There are some who give themselves to castigating their
body perfectly, doing very great harsh penance; and that the flesh may not
rebel against the reason, they have placed all their desire rather on
mortifying their body than on slaying their self-will. These people feed
at the table of penitence and are good and perfect; but unless they have a
great humility and conform themselves not wholly to judge according to the
will of God and not according to that of men, they often wrong their
perfection, making themselves judges of those who do not walk in the same
way in which they do.

This happens to them because they have put more thought and desire on
mortifying their body than on slaying their self-will. Such men as these
always want to choose times and places and mental consolations to suit
themselves; also, worldly tribulations, and their battles with the devil;
saying, through self-deceit, beguiled by their own will--which is called
spiritual self-will--"I should like this consolation, and not these
assaults or battles with the devil; not for my own sake, but to please
God, and possess Him more fully, because I seem to possess Him better in
this way than in that." Many a time, in such a way as this, the soul falls
into suffering and weariness, and becomes unendurable to itself through
them, and thus wrongs its state of perfection. The odour of pride clings
to it, and this it does not perceive. For, were it truly humble and not
presumptuous, it would see well that the Sweet Primal Truth gives
conditions, time and place, and consolation and tribulation, according as
is needful to our perfection, and to fulfil in the soul the perfection to
which it is chosen. It would see that everything is given through love,
and therefore with love.

All things ought to be received with reverence, as is done by the second
class of people, who abide in this sweet and glorious light, who are
perfect in whatever condition they are, and, in so far as God permits
them, hold everything in due reverence, esteeming themselves worthy of
sufferings and scandals in the world, and of missing their consolations.
As they hold themselves worthy of sufferings, so they hold themselves
unworthy of the reward which follows suffering. These have known and
tasted in the light the eternal will of God, which wishes naught but our
good, and that we be sanctified in Him, therefore giving His gifts. When
the soul has known this will, it is arrayed therein, and cares for nothing
save to see in what wise it can grow, and preserve its condition perfect,
for glory and praise of the Name of God. Therefore, it opens the eye of
the mind upon its object, Christ crucified, who is rule and way and
doctrine for perfect and imperfect: and sees the loving Lamb, Who gives it
the doctrine of perfection, which seeing it loves.

Perfection is this: that the Word, the Son of God, fed at the table of
holy desire for the honour of God and for our salvation; and with this
desire ran with great zeal to the shameful death of the Cross, avoiding
neither toil nor labour, not drawing back for the ingratitude and
ignorance of us men who did not recognize His benefits, nor for the
persecution of the Jews, nor for mockery or insults or criticism of the
people, but underwent them all, like our captain and true knight, who was
come to teach us His way and rule and doctrine, opening the door with the
keys of His precious Blood, shed with ardent love and hatred against sin.
As says this sweet, loving Word, "Behold, I have made you a way, and
opened the door with My blood. Be you then not negligent to follow it, and
do not sit yourselves down in self-love, ignorantly failing to know the
Way, and presumptuously wishing to choose it after your own fashion, and
not after Mine who made it. Rise up then, and follow Me: for no one can go
to the Father but by Me. I am the Way and the Door."

Then the soul, enamoured and tormented with love, runs to the table of
holy desire, and sees not itself in itself, seeking private consolation,
spiritual or temporal, but, as one who has wholly destroyed his own will
in this light and knowledge, refuses no toil from whatever side it comes.
Nay, in suffering, in pain, in many assaults from the devil and criticisms
from men, it seeks upon the table of the Cross the food of the honour of
God and the salvation of men. And it seeks no reward, from God or from
fellow-creatures; such men serve God, not for their own joy, and the
neighbour not for their own will or profit, but from pure love. They lose
themselves, divesting them of the old man, their fleshly desires, and
array them in the new man, Christ sweet Jesus, following Him manfully.
These are they who feed at the table of holy desire, and have more zeal
for slaying their self-will than for slaying and mortifying the body. They
have mortified the body, to be sure, but not as a chief aim, but as the
tool which it is, to help in slaying self-will; for one's chief aim ought
to be and is to slay the will; that it may seek and wish naught save to
follow Christ crucified, seeking the honour and glory of His Name, and the
salvation of souls. Such men abide ever in peace and quiet; there are none
who can offend them, because they have cast away the thing that gives
offence--that is, self-will. All the persecutions which the world and the
devil can inflict run away beneath their feet; they stand in the water,
made fast to the twigs of eager desire, and are not submerged. Such a man
as this rejoices in everything; he does not make himself a judge of the
servants of God, nor of any rational creature; nay, he rejoices in every
condition and every type that he sees, saying, "Thanks be to Thee, eternal
Father, that Thou hast many mansions in Thy House." And he rejoices more
in the different kinds of men that he sees than he would do in seeing them
all walk in the same way, for so he sees the greatness of God's goodness
more manifest. He joys in everything, and gets from it the fragrance of
roses. And even as to a thing which he may expressly see to be sin, he
does not pose as a judge, but regards it rather with holy true compassion,
saying, "To-day it is thy turn, and to-morrow mine, unless it be for
divine grace which preserves me."

Oh, holy minds, who feed at the table of holy desire, who have attained in
great light to nourish you with holy food, clothed with the sweet raiment
of the Lamb, His love and charity! You do not lose time in accepting false
judgments, either of the servants of God or of the servants of the world;
you do not take offence at any criticism, either against yourselves or
others. Your love toward God and your neighbour is governed well, and not
ungoverned. And because it is governed, such men as these, dearest son,
never take offence at those whom they love; for appearances are dead to
them, and they have submitted themselves not to be guided by men, but only
by the Holy Spirit. See then, these enjoy in this life the pledge of life

I wish you and the other ignorant sons to reach this light, for I see that
this perfection is lacking to you and to others. For were it not lacking
to you, you would not have fallen into such criticism and offence and
false judgment, as to say and believe that another man was guided and
mastered by the will of the creature and not of the Creator. My soul and
my heart grieve to see you wrong the perfection to which God has called
you, under pretence of love and odour of virtue. Nevertheless, these are
the tares which the devil has sowed in the field of the Lord; he has done
this to choke the seed of holy desire and doctrine sowed in your fields.
Will then to do so no more, since God has of grace given you great lights;
the first, to despise the world; the second, to mortify the body; the
third, to seek the honour of God. Do not wrong this perfection with
spiritual self-will, but rise from the table of penance and attain the
table of the desire of God, where the soul is wholly dead to its own will,
nourishing itself without suffering on the honour of God and the salvation
of souls, growing in perfection and not wronging it.

Therefore, considering that this condition cannot be had without light,
and seeing that you had it not, I said that I desired and desire to see
you in true and perfect light. Thus I pray you, by the love of Christ
crucified--you and Brother Antonio and all the others--that you struggle
to win it, so that you may be numbered among the perfect and not among the
imperfect. I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. I
commend me to all of you. Bathe you in the Blood of Christ crucified.
Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Thou seest, then, that such men enjoy in this life the pledge of life
eternal. They receive, not the payment, but the pledge--not waiting to
receive it till the enduring life, where is life without death, satiety
without disgust, and hunger without pain. For far is the pain of hunger,
since they have completely what they desire; and far is the disgust of
satiety, since that is the Food of Life without any lack. It is true that
in this life one begins to enjoy the pledge, in this way, that the soul
begins to be an-hungered for the food of the honour of God and the
salvation of souls. As it is an-hungered, so it feeds thereon; yes, the
soul nourishes itself on charity for the neighbour, for whom it has a
hungry desire. That is a food which never satisfies those nourished on it.
It never satiates, and therefore hunger lasts for ever. As a pledge is a
beginning of surety given to a man, through which he expects to receive
payment (not that the pledge is perfect in itself, but it gives assurance
through one's trust, that fulfilment will come), so the soul enamoured of
Christ, which has already received in this life the pledge of love for God
and its neighbour, is not perfect in itself, but awaits the perfection of
the life immortal. I say that this pledge is not perfect--that is, the
soul which enjoys it has not yet reached such perfection as not to feel
sufferings, in itself or others: in itself, from the wrong it does to God,
through the perverse law which is bound into our members; and in others,
from the wrong of the neighbour. It is, to be sure, perfect in grace, but
it has not the perfection of the saints, who are in the eternal life, as I
said; since their desires are free from suffering and ours are not. Dost
thou know how it is with the true servant of God, who nourishes him at the
table of holy desire? He is blessèd and grieving, as was the Son of God
upon the wood of the Most Holy Cross: for the flesh of Christ was grieved
and tortured, and the soul was blessèd, through its union with the Divine
Nature. So, through the union of our desire with God, ought we to be
blessed, and clothed with His sweet will; and grieving, through compassion
for our neighbour, casting from us sensuous joys and comforts and
mortifying our flesh.

But listen, daughter and dearest sister. I have spoken to thee and me in
general, but now I shall speak to thee and me in particular. I want us to
do two special things, in order that ignorance may not hinder our
perfection, to which God calls us; that the devil, under cloak of virtue
and love of the neighbour, may not nourish the root of presumption within
our soul. For from this we shall fall into false judgments; seeming to
ourselves to judge aright, we shall judge crookedly: often, if we followed
our own impressions, the devil would make us see many truths to lead us
into falsehood; and this, because we make ourselves judges of the minds of
our fellow-creatures, which are for God alone to judge.

This is one of the two things from which I wish that we should free
ourselves completely. But I want the lesson to be learned reasonably. This
is the reasonable way: if God expressly, not only once or twice, but more
often, reveals the fault of a neighbour to our mind, we ought never to
tell it in particular to the person whom it concerns, but to correct in
common the vices of all those whom it befalls us to judge, and to implant
virtues, tenderly and benignly. Severity in the benignity, as may be
needed. And should it seem that God showed us repeatedly the faults of
another, yet unless there were, as I said, a special revelation, keep on
the safer side, that we may escape the deceit and malice of the devil; for
he would catch us with this hook of desire. On thy lips, then, let silence
abide, and holy talk of virtues, and disdain of vice. And any vice that it
may seem to thee to recognize in others, do thou ascribe at once to them
and to thyself, using ever a true humility. If that vice really exists in
any such person, he will correct himself better, seeing himself so gently
understood, and will say that to thee which thou wouldest have said to
him. And thou wilt be safe, and wilt close the way to the devil, who will
be unable to deceive us or to hinder the perfection of thy soul. Know that
we ought not to trust in any appearances, but to put them behind our
backs, and abide only in the perception and knowledge of ourselves. And if
it ever happened that we were praying particularly for some fellow-
creatures, and in prayer we saw some light of grace in one of those for
whom we were praying, and none in another, who was also a servant of God--
but thou didst seem to see him with his mind abased and sterile--do not
therefore assume to judge that there is grave fault or lack in him, for it
might be that thy opinion was false. For it happens sometimes that when
one is praying for the same person, one occasion will find him in such
light and holy desire before God that the soul will seem to fatten on his
welfare; and on another occasion thou shalt find him when his soul seems
so far from God, and full of shadows and temptations, that it is toil to
whoso prays for him to hold him in God's presence. This may happen
sometimes through a fault of him for whom one is praying, but more often
it is due not to a fault, but to God's having withdrawn Himself from this
soul--that is, He has withdrawn Himself as to any feeling of sweetness and
consolation, though not as to grace. So the soul will have stayed sterile,
dry, and full of pain--which God makes that soul which is praying for it
perceive. And God does this in mercy to that soul which receives the
prayer, that thou mayest aid Him to scatter the cloud. So thou seest,
sweet my sister, how ignorant and worthy of rebuke our opinion would be,
if simply from these appearances we judged that there was vice in this
soul. Therefore, if God showed it to us so troubled and darkened, when we
have already seen that it was not deprived of grace, but only of the
sweetness of feeling God's presence--I beg thee, then, thee and me and
every servant of God, that we apply us to knowing ourselves perfectly,
that we may more perfectly know the goodness of God; so that, illumined,
we may abandon judging our neighbour, and adopt true compassion, hungering
to proclaim virtues and reprove sin in both ourselves and them, in the way
we spoke of before.

We have spoken of one thing, but now I tell thee of the other, which I beg
that we rebuke in ourselves: if sometimes the devil or our own very evil
construction of matters tormented us by making us want to send or see all
the servants of God walking in the same way that we are walking in
ourselves. For it frequently happens that a soul which sees itself advance
by way of great penance, would like to send all people by that same way;
and if it sees that they do not walk there, it is displeased and shocked,
feeling that they are not doing right: while sometimes it will happen that
the man is doing better and being more virtuous than his critic, although
he does not do as much penance. For perfection does not consist in
macerating or killing the body, but in killing our perverse self-will. And
in this way, of the will destroyed, submitted to the sweet Will of God, we
ought indeed to desire all men to walk. Good is penance and the maceration
of the body; but do not show me these as a rule for every one, since all
bodies are not alike, and also since it often happens that a penance begun
has to be given up from many accidents that may occur. If, then, we made
ourselves or others build on penance as a foundation, it might come to
nothing, and be so imperfect that consolation and virtue would fail the
soul; for, deprived of the thing which it loved and had made of prime
importance, it would seem to be deprived of God, and so would fall into
weariness and very great sadness and bitterness, and would lose in the
bitterness the activity and fervent prayer to which it was accustomed. So
thou seest what evil would follow from making penance alone one's chief
concern: we should be ignorant, and should fall into a critical attitude,
and become weary and very bitter; we should strive to give only a finished
work to God, who is Infinite Good that demands from us infinite desire. We
ought, then, to build our foundation on killing and destroying our own
perverse will; with that will submitted to the will of God, we shall
devote sweet, hungry, infinite desire to the honour of God and the
salvation of souls. Thus shall we feed at the table of that holy desire
which never takes offence either at itself or at its neighbour, but
rejoices and finds fruit in everything. Miserable woman that I am, I mourn
that I never followed this true doctrine; nay, I have done the contrary,
and therefore I feel that I have often fallen into irritation and a
judicial attitude toward my neighbour. Wherefore I pray thee, by the love
of Christ Crucified, that for this and for my every other infirmity,
healing may be found; so that thou and I may begin to-day to walk in the
way of truth, enlightened to build our true foundation on holy desire, and
not trusting in appearances and impressions; so that we may not lightly
neglect ourselves and judge the faults of our neighbours, unless by way of
compassion or general rebuke.

This we shall do if we nourish us at the table of holy desire: otherwise
we cannot. For from desire we have light, and light gives us desire; so
one nourishes the other. Therefore I said that I desired to see thee in
the true light. I say no more. 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 daughter 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 clothed in true and perfect humility--for that is a
little virtue which makes us great in the sweet sight of God. This is the
virtue which constrained and inclined God to make His most sweet Son
incarnate in the Womb of Mary. It is as exalted as the proud are humbled;
it shines in the sight of God and men; it binds the hands of the wicked,
it unites the soul with God, it purifies and laves away the soil of our
sin, and calls on God to show us mercy. I will then, sweetest daughter,
that thou strive to embrace this glorious virtue, so that thou mayest pass
over the stormy sea of this world free from storm and peril.

Now comfort thee in this sweet and sincere virtue, and bathe thee in the
Blood of Christ crucified. And when thou canst empty thy time for prayer,
I pray thee to do it. And love tenderly every rational being. Then, I beg
and command thee not to fast, except, when thou canst, on the days
commanded by Holy Church. And when thou dost not feel strong enough to
fast then, do not observe them. At other times, do not fast, except when
thou feelest able, on Saturday. When this heat is over, fast on the days
of Holy Mary, if thou canst, and no more. And drink something beside water
every day. Labour hard to increase thy holy desire, and let these other
things alone for the future. Do not be anxious or depressed over us, for
we are all well. When it shall please the Divine Goodness, we shall see
one another again. I say no more to thee. Remain in the holy and sweet
grace of God. Comfort my sweet daughters, Ursula and Ginevra. Sweet Jesus,
Jesus Love.


Catherine had ample opportunity to suffer from those keenly critical
instincts of the respectable which she reproved in the last group of
letters. Her life was full of eager unconventionalities that drew down on
her the frequent distrust of her co-religionists and fellow-townsmen. We
cannot tell what special cause had excited the indignation of the loyal
friends to whom the following note is written; but we may enjoy the spirit
of fresh and pure humility in which Catherine gives them the difficult
injunction to acquiesce in any criticism made upon her.

The very matters which were later to be considered as proofs of her
sanctity, were during her lifetime grounds of suspicion. Some unknown,
exercised in his mind over the reports of her extraordinary abstinence,
took evidently what would to-day appear the somewhat impertinent course of
writing her a letter of remonstrance. Catherine's inability or reluctance
to eat as much as others was one of the most interesting marvels of her
life to her simple contemporaries. It is clear, that partly from the
extreme mortification which according to mediaeval custom she inflicted on
her flesh from childhood, her condition became at an early age thoroughly
abnormal. Salads and water were practically her only diet; the curious are
referred to the copious details furnished by her biographers. Meantime,
the present letter shows how reasonable was her own attitude in the
matter. It shows also with what gentle dignity she received criticism. The
little touch at the end--"I pray you not to be light in judging, if you
are not surely illumined in the sight of God"--is the only hint at a
natural impulse of resentment: unless one reads, as it is tempting to do,
a delicate irony in the opening portion of the letter.


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 you persevere in holy desire, so that you may never look
back. For otherwise you would not receive your reward, and would
transgress the word of the Saviour, which says that we are not to turn
back to look at the furrow. Be persevering, then, and contemplate not what
is done, but what you have to do. And what have we to do? To turn our
affections constantly back toward God, despising the world with all its
joys, and loving virtue, bearing with true patience what the divine
goodness permits us; considering that whatever He gives is given for our
good that we may be sanctified in Him. We shall find in the Blood that the
truth is thus. So we ought to fill our memory with this glorious Blood,
which shows us so sweet a truth, that we may never be without the
recollection of it. Thus I want you to do, dearest daughters: that in this
life you shall persevere until death, and at the close of your life shall
receive the Eternal Vision of God. I say no more here.

I reprove thee, dearest my sweet daughter, because thou hast not kept in
mind what I told thee--not to answer anyone who should say to thee
anything about myself that seemed to thee less than good. Now I do not
wish thee to do so any more, but I wish both of you to reply to anyone who
narrated my faults to you in this wise--that they are not telling so many
that a great many more might not be told. Tell them to be moved by
compassion within their hearts in the sight of God, as they appear to be
by their tongues--and to pray the Divine Goodness earnestly for me, that
It will correct my life. Then say to them that it is the Highest Judge who
will punish my every fault, and reward every labour that shall be borne
for His Name. As to Monna Paula, I do not wish thee to be in the least
indignant with her: but think that she is acting like a good mother, who
wants to test her daughter to see whether she has virtue or not. I confess
truthfully that I have found little success in myself; but I have hope in
my Creator, who will make me correct myself and change my way of life.
Comfort you, and give yourselves no more pain; for we shall find ourselves
united in the fire of divine Charity, a union that shall be taken from us
neither by demon nor by creature. I say no more to you. 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 and most beloved father in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, a
useless servant of Jesus Christ, commend me to you: with the desire to see
us united and transformed in that sweet, eternal and pure Truth which
destroys in us all falsity and lying. I thank you cordially, dearest
father, for the holy zeal and jealousy which you have toward my soul: in
that you are apparently very anxious over what you hear of my life. I am
certain that nothing affects you except desire for the honour of God and
for my salvation, which makes you fear the assaults and illusions of
devils. As to your special fear, father, concerning my behaviour about
eating, I am not surprised; for I assure you, that not only do you fear,
but I myself tremble, for fear of devilish wiles. Were it not that I trust
in the goodness of God, and distrust myself, knowing that in myself I can
have no confidence. For you sent, asking me whether or no I believed that
I might be deceived, saying that if I did not believe so, that was a wile
of the devil. I answer you, that not only about this, which is above the
nature of the body, but about all my other activities also, I am always
afraid, on account of my frailty and the astuteness of the devil, and
think that I may be deceived; for I am perfectly well aware that the devil
lost beatitude, but not wisdom, with which wisdom, as I said, I recognized
that he might deceive me. But then I turn me, and lean against the Tree of
the Most Holy Cross of Christ crucified, and there will I fasten me; and I
do not doubt that if I shall be nailed and held with Him by love and with
profound humility, the devils will have no power against me--not through
my virtue, but through the virtue of Christ crucified.

You sent me word to pray God particularly that I might eat. I tell you, my
father, and I say it in the sight of God, that in all ways within my power
I have always forced myself once or twice a day to take food. And I have
prayed constantly, and do pray God and shall pray Him, that in this matter
of eating He will give me grace to live like other creatures, if it is His
will--for it is mine. I tell you, that often enough, when I have done what
I could, I enter within myself, to recognize my infirmity, and God, who by
most special grace has made me correct the sin of gluttony. I grieve much
that I have not corrected that miserable fault of mine through love. I for
myself do not know what other remedy to adopt, except that I beg you to
pray that Highest Eternal Truth, that He give me grace, if it is more for
His honour and the salvation of my soul, to enable me to take food if it
please Him. And I am sure that the goodness of God will not despise your
prayers. I beg you that if you see any remedy you will write me of it; and
provided it be for the honour of God, I will accept it willingly. Also I
beg you not to be light in judging, if you are not clearly illumined in
the sight of God. I say no more to you. Remain in the holy and sweet grace
of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Belief in the wrath to come is sufficiently real to Catherine, and the
current demonology of her day slips readily from her tongue. These things
she accepted as she found them. But the atmosphere in which her spirit
breathes is the perception of the love of God. The spiritual history of
the race, from the creation to the coming of the Spirit and the perpetual
support of the soul in the Sacrament of the Altar, is to her a revelation
of the One encompassing Love, poured forth in fresh measure and under new
forms at each stage in the movement of human destiny.

And so, in this little letter, she invites us to enter with her the
"peaceful and profound sea" found in the words "God is Love." Elsewhere,
both in her Dialogue and in a letter to one Brother Matteo Tolomei, she
analyses with keen insight the relations which redeemed humanity can bear
to the Loving God; she tells us how the servant, obedient through fear,
may become the friend, obedient through gratitude and desire for spiritual
blessings; and how these lower loves, through the operation of the Holy
Spirit, may be transformed into the love of the son, who seeks God for His
own sake, "with nothing between." And how shall human love, when it has
reached this point, reflect the love of Him who "needs not man's work nor
His own gifts?" How become, not merely receptive, but active and creative?
Catherine gives the simple Christian answer: "God has loved us without
being loved, but we love Him because we are loved.... We cannot be of any
profit to Him, nor love Him with this first love. Yet God demands of us,
that as He has loved us without any second thoughts, so He should be loved
by us. In what way can we do this, then, since He demands it of us and we
cannot give it to Him? I tell you: through a means which He has
established by which we can love Him freely, and without the least regard
to any profit of ours: we can be useful, not to Him, which is impossible,
but to our neighbour.... To show the love we have to Him, we ought to
serve and love every rational creature.... Every virtue receives life from
love, and love is gained in love, that is, by raising the eye of our mind
to behold how much we are beloved of God. Seeing ourselves loved, we
cannot do otherwise than love.... So thou seest that we conceive virtues
through God and bring them to the birth for our neighbour."

Thus do Catherine's loftiest meditations end on the practical note. Her
fundamental thought, here as elsewhere, is strikingly akin to the thought
of St. Bernard. Love yourself not for your own sake, but for God! she
constantly repeats. To the same effect, Bernard describes at length the
progress of the soul till it reaches the highest stage, in which self-love
is so lost that even gratitude is left behind, and man loves himself and
God for the sake of God alone.

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

To you, most beloved and dear father, through reverence of the most sweet
Sacrament, and son in Christ Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the
servants of Jesus Christ, write and send comfort in His precious Blood,
with desire to see you kindled, on fire, and consumed in His most ardent
charity, since I know that he who is on fire and consumed with this
charity sees not himself. This, then, I will that you do. I summon you to
enter through this most ardent charity, a sea that is peaceful and
profound. This I have just now found anew--not that the sea is new, but
that it is new to me in the feeling of my soul--in that word, God is Love.
And in this word, as the mirror reflects the face of man, and the sun its
light upon the earth, so it is reflected in my soul, that all His works
whatsoever are Love alone, for they are not wrought of anything save love.
Therefore He says, "I God am Love." From this a light is thrown on the
unsearchable mystery of the Incarnate Word, who by force of love was given
with such humility that it confounds my pride, and teaches us not to
regard His works, but the burning devotion of the Word given to us. He
says that we should do as he who loves: who, when his friend comes with a
present, looks not at the hands for the gift which he brings, but opens
the eye of love, and regards his heart and affection. So He wills that we
should do, when the Highest eternal goodness of God, sweet above all
things, visits our soul. It visits us then with measureless benefits. Let
memory act swiftly to receive the intention in the divine charity: and let
the will arise with most ardent desire, and receive and behold the
sacrificed Heart of sweet and good Jesus the Giver: and thus you shall
find you kindled and clothed with fire, and with the gift of the Blood of
the Son of God; and you shall be free from all pain and disease. This it
was which took away the pain of the holy disciples, when it behoved them
to leave Mary and one another, and gladly they endured that separation, to
sow the word of God. Run then, run, run.

Concerning the affairs of Benincasa, I cannot reply unless I am at Siena.
Thank Messer Nicolao for the charity which he has shown for them. Alessa
and I and Cecca, poor women, commend ourselves to you a thousand thousand
times. May God be ever in your soul, amen. Jesus, Jesus.

Catherine, servant of the servants of God.


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 seek God in truth, not through the intervention of your own
fleshliness or of any other creature, for we cannot please God through any
intervening means. God gave us the Word, His Only-Begotten Son, without
regard to His own profit. This is true, that we cannot be of any profit to
Him; but the reverse is not the case, because, although we do not serve
God for our profit, nevertheless we profit just the same. To Him belongs
the flower of honour, and to us the fruit of profit. He has loved us
without being loved, and we love because we are loved: He loves us of
grace, and we Him of duty, because we are bound to love Him. We cannot be
of any profit to God just as we cannot love Him of grace, without duty.
For we are bound to Him, and not He to us, because before He was loved, He
loved us, and therefore created us in His Image and Likeness. There it is,
then: we cannot be of any profit to Him, nor love Him with this first
love. Yet I say that God demands of us, that as He has loved us without
any second thoughts, so He should be loved by us. In what way can we do
this, then, since He demands it of us, and we cannot give it Him? I tell
you: through a means which He has established, by which we can love Him
freely, and without the least regard to any profit of ours; that is, we
can be useful, not to Him, which is impossible, but to our neighbour. Now
by this means we can obey what He demands of us for the glory and praise
of His Name; to show the love that we have for Him, we ought to serve and
love every rational creature, and extend our charity to good and bad, to
every kind of people, as much to one who does us ill service and
criticises us as to one who serves us. For God is no respecter of persons,
but of holy desires, and His charity extends over just men and sinners.

One man, to be sure, He loves as a son, and one as a friend, and another
as a servant, and another as a person who has departed from Him, for whose
return He longs--these last are the wicked sinners who are deprived of
grace. But wherein does the Highest Father show His love to these? In
lending them time, and in time He gives them many opportunities, either to
repent of their sins, taking from them place and power to do as much ill
as they would, or He has many other ways to make them hate vice and love
virtue, the love of which takes away the wish to sin. And so, through the
time which God gave them in love, from foes they are made friends, and
have grace and are fit to become the Father's heirs.

He loves as sons those who serve Him in truth without any servile fear,
who have annulled and killed their self-will, and are through God obedient
till death to every rational creature: no mercenaries they, who serve Him
for their own profit, but sons; and they despise consolations and joy in
tribulations, and seek only in what way they can conform them to Christ
crucified, and nourish them on His shames and labours and sorrows. Such
men seek not God nor serve Him for sweetness or consolation, spiritual or
temporal, which they receive from God or the fellow-creature; they seek
not God for their own sakes, nor the neighbour, but God for God, inasmuch
as He is worthy of being loved, and themselves for God, for the glory and
praise of His Name; and they serve their neighbour for God, being of what
profit they may to Him. These men follow the footsteps of the Father,
rejoicing wholly in charity toward their neighbour, loving the servants of
God through the love with which they love their Creator; and they love
imperfect men through love that they should reach perfection, devoting to
them holy desire and continual prayers. They love wicked men, who lie in
the death of mortal sin, because they are rational beings, created by God,
and bought by the same Blood as they, wherefore they mourn over their
condemnation, and to rescue them would give themselves to bodily death. As
to the persecutors and slanderers and judges who take offence at them,
they love these both because they are creatures of God, as I said, and
also because they are the means and cause of testing their virtue, and
helping them reach perfection--especially as to that royal virtue
patience, a sweet virtue, which is never offended or disturbed, nor cast
down by any contrary wind or any molesting of men. Such men are those who
seek God with nothing between, and love Him truly as dear and lawful sons;
and He loves them as a true father, and shows them the secret of His
charity, to make them heirs of His eternal kingdom, wherefore they run,
refreshed by the Blood of Christ, kindled by the fire of divine charity,
by which they are perfectly illumined. Such men do not run in the path of
virtue after their own fashion, nay, but after the fashion of Christ
crucified, following in His steps. Were it possible for them to serve God
and win virtue without labour, they would not wish it. These men do not
act like the second kinds of men, the friend and the servant, for the
service of these last has some ulterior thought. Sometimes it has regard
to the man's own profit; one can reach great friendship in this way, when
he knows his need, and his benefactor, who, as he sees, can and will help
him. Yet first he was a servant, for he knew his own wrong-doing, on which
followed punishment; so from the fear of punishment he drives out his sin,
and lovingly embraces virtue, serving his Lord, whom he has wronged; and
he begins to draw hope from His benignity, considering that He wills not
the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live. If the man abode
in fear alone, it would not suffice to give him life, nor would he attain
to the perfect favour of his Lord; but he would be a mercenary servant.
Nor ought he to remain only in the love of the fruit and the consolation
which he might receive from his Lord, after he has been made a friend; for
this kind of love would not be strong, but would fail when it was deprived
of sweetness or consolation and joy of mind, or else when some contrary
wind struck it, of persecution or temptation from the devil; then at once
it would fail under temptations of the devil or vexations of the flesh. So
it would fall into confusion through being deprived of mental consolation;
and in the persecutions and insults wrought against it by fellow-
creatures, it would fall into impatience.

So you see, that this kind of love is not strong. Nay, he who loves with
this love does as St. Peter, who before the Passion loved Christ tenderly;
but he was not strong, therefore he failed in the time of the Cross: but
then, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, he separated him from the love
of sweetness, and lost fear, and reached a love strong, and tried in the
fire of many tribulations. Thence, having reached the love of a son, he
bore all such with true patience--nay, ran under them in great gladness,
as he had been going to a marriage feast and not to torment. This was
because he had been made a son. But had Peter remained absorbed in the
sweetness and the fear which he felt in the Passion and after the Passion
of Christ, he would not have reached such perfection as to be a son and
champion of Holy Church, a lover and seeker of souls. But note the way
that Peter took, and the other disciples, to gain power to lose their
servile fear and love of consolations, and to receive the Holy Spirit, as
had been promised them by the Sweet Primal Truth. Therefore says the
Scripture that they shut them in the house, and stayed there in vigil and
continual prayers; they stayed ten days, and then came the Holy Spirit.

Now this is the teaching which we and every rational creature ought to
receive; to shut ourselves into the house, and remain in vigil and
continual prayer: to stay ten days, and then we shall receive the
plenitude of the Holy Spirit. Who, when He was come, illumined them with
truth; and they saw the secret of the immeasurable love of the Word, with
the will of the Father, who willed naught but our sanctification. This has
been shown us by the Blood of that sweet and enamoured Word: who was
restored to His disciples, when the plenitude of the Holy Spirit came. He
came with the power of the Father, the wisdom of the Son, the mercy and
clemency of the Holy Spirit; so the truth of Christ is fulfilled, which He
spake to His disciples: I shall go and shall return to you. Then did He
return, because the Holy Spirit could not come without the Son and the
Father, because He was one thing with them. Thus He came, as I said, with
the power that is assigned to the Father, and the wisdom that is assigned
to the Son, and the benevolence and love that is assigned to the Holy
Spirit. Well did the Apostles show it, for suddenly through love they lost
their fear. So in true wisdom they knew the truth, and went with great
power against the infidels; they threw idols to the ground and drove out
devils. This was not with the power of the world, nor with bodily
fortitude, but with strength of spirit and the power of God, which they
had received through Divine grace. Now thus it will happen to those who
have arisen from the filth of mortal sin and the misery of this world, and
begin to taste the Highest Good and enamour themselves of His sweetness.
But as I have said, by remaining in fear alone, one would not escape hell;
but would do like the thief, who does not steal, because he is afraid of
the gallows; but he would not abstain from stealing if he did not expect
to be punished. It is just such a case when one loves God for the
sweetness of it; that is, one would not be strong and perfect, but weak
and imperfect.

The way to arrive at perfection is that of the disciples, as I said. That
is, as Peter and the others shut themselves into the house, so those have
done and should do who have attained the love of the Father, who are sons.
Those who wish to reach this state should enter the house, and shut
themselves in; that is, the house of the knowledge of themselves, which is
the cell that the soul should inhabit. Within this cell another cell is
found, that of the knowledge of the goodness of God in Himself. So from
knowledge of self the soul draws true humility, with holy hatred of the
wrong which it has done to its Creator, and by this it attains to true and
holy patience. And from the knowledge of God, which it finds in itself, it
wins the virtue of most ardent charity: whence it draws holy and loving
desires. In this wise it finds vigil and continual prayer--that is, while
it abides enclosed in so sweet and glorious a thing as is the knowledge of
itself and of God. It keeps vigil, I say, not only with the eye of the
body, but with the eye of the soul; that is, the eye of the intellect
never sees itself closed, but remains opened upon its Object and ineffable
Love, Christ crucified: and there it finds love, and its own guilt. For
that guilt, Christ gave us His Blood. Then the soul uplifts itself with
deepest devotion, to love what God loves and to hate what He hates. And it
directs all its works in God, and does everything to the glory and praise
of His Name. This is the continual prayer of which Paul says, "Pray
without ceasing." Now this is the way to rise from being only a servant
and a friend--that is, from servile fear and from tender love of one's own
consolation--and to arrive at being a true servant, true friend, true son.
For when one is truly made a son, he does not therefore lose being a
servant and true friend; but is a servant and friend in truth, without any
regard to himself, or to anything except pleasing God alone.

We said that they abode ten days, and then came the Holy Spirit. So the
soul, which wishes to arrive at this perfection, must observe ten days,
that is the ten commandments of the law. And with the legal commandments
it will observe the Counsels; for they are bound together, and the one
cannot be observed without the other. True, those who are in the world
must observe the Counsels mentally, through holy desire, and those who are
freed from the world must observe them both mentally and actually. Thus,
if the soul receives the abundance of the Holy Spirit, with true wisdom of
true and perfect light and knowledge, and with fortitude and power to make
it strong in every battle, it becomes mighty chiefly against itself,
lording it over its own fleshly nature. But all this you could not do if
you went roaming about, in much conversation, keeping far from the cell,
and neglecting the choir. Whence, considering this, I said to you when you
left me that you should study to flee conversation and to visit the cell,
and not to abandon the choir or the refectory (so far as might be possible
to you), and to keep vigil with humble prayer: and thus to fulfil my
desire, when I told you that I desired to see you seek God in truth,
without anything between. I say no more to you. Remain in the holy and
sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


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

My dearest sister and daughter 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 servant and bride of Christ
crucified. Servants we ought to be, because we are bought with His blood.
But I do not see that we can be of any profit to Him by our service; we
ought, then, to be of profit to our neighbour, because he is the means by
which we test and gain virtue. Thou knowest that every virtue receives
life from love; and love is gained in love, that is, by raising the eye of
our mind to behold how much we are beloved of God. Seeing ourselves loved,
we cannot do otherwise than love; loving Him, we shall embrace virtue
through the force of love, and shall hate vice and spurn it.

So thou seest that we conceive virtues through God, and bring them to the
birth for our neighbour. Thou knowest well that for the necessity of thy
neighbour thou bringest forth the child charity that is within thy soul,
and patience in the wrongs which thou receivest from him. Thou givest him
prayer, particularly to those who have done thee wrong. And thus we ought
to do; if men are untrue to us, we ought to be true to them, and
faithfully to seek their salvation; loving them of grace, and not by
barter. That is, do thou beware not to love thy neighbour for thine own
profit; for that would not be faithful love, and thou wouldst not respond
to the love which God bears thee. For as God has loved thee of grace, so
He wills that since thou canst not return this love to Him, thou return it
to thy neighbour, loving him of grace and not by barter, as I said.
Neither if thou art wronged, nor if thou shouldst see love toward thee, or
thy joy or profit lessened, must thou lessen or stint love toward thy
neighbour; but love him tenderly, bearing and enduring his faults; and
beholding with great consolation and reverence the servants of God.

Beware lest thou do like mad and foolish people who want to set themselves
to investigate and judge the deeds and habits of the servants of God. He
who does this is entirely worthy of severe rebuke. Know that it would not
be different from setting a law and rule to the Holy Spirit if we wished
to make the servants of God all walk in our own way--a thing which could
never be done. Let the soul inclined to this kind of judgment think that
the root of pride is not yet out, nor true charity toward the neighbour
planted--that is, the loving him by grace and not by barter. Then let us
love the servants of God, and not judge them. Nay, it befits us to love in
general every rational creature: those who are outside of grace we must
love with grief and bitterness over their fault, because they wrong God
and their own soul. Thus thou shalt be in accord with that sweet enamoured
Paul, who mourns with those who mourn, and joys with those who joy; thus
thou shalt mourn with those who are in mournful state, through desire for
the honour of God and for their salvation; and thou shalt joy with the
servants of God who rejoice, possessing God through loving tenderness.

Thou seest, then, that through charity to God we conceive virtues, and
through charity toward our neighbours they are brought to the birth. Being
thus--loving thy neighbour sincerely, without any falsity of love or
heart, freely, without any regard to thine own profit, spiritual or
temporal--thou shalt be a true servant, and respond by means of thy
neighbour to the love which thy Creator bears thee; thou shalt be a
faithful, not a faithless bride. Then does the bride fail in faith to her
bridegroom, when she gives to another creature the faith which she ought
to give to him. Thou art a bride, for Christ in His circumcision showed
that He would wed the human race. Thou, beholding love so ineffable,
shouldst love Him without any means that might be apart from God. Thus art
thou made the servant of thy neighbour, serving him in all things to the
measure of thy power. Verily thou art the bride of Christ, and shouldst be
the servant of thy neighbour. If thou art a faithful bride, since we can
neither be of profit nor of service to God by the love which we bear Him,
we ought, as I said, to serve our neighbour with true and heartfelt love.
In no other way nor wise can we serve Him. Therefore I said to thee that I
desired to see thee the true servant and bride of Christ crucified. I say
no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus


Neri di Landoccio dei Pagliaresi is one of the attractive group of
Catherine's secretaries, which included also Stefano Maconi and Barduccio
Canigiani. There is something very charming, wholly Italian and mediaeval,
in the thought of the three highly-born and gently-bred young Tuscans,
who, without leaving the world or taking religious vows, attached
themselves with a pure and passionate devotion to the person of the Beata
Populana, dedicated their time and powers to her service, caught the fire
of her ideals, and after her death followed her wishes for their future.
The faces that appear a little later in such pictures as Botticelli's
"Adoration of the Magi," help us to understand the type of these young

Of the three secretaries, Neri was the first to enter Catherine's service.
It was he who introduced to her most of the people who later became her
disciples, and many letters yet extant from one and another show that he
was devotedly loved by the little group. He was of a sensitive, subtle,
and despondent temperament--a reader of Dante, himself a poet, a man given
to self-torment, and, as his later life showed, with a tendency to
melancholia. He must have possessed tact, force, and probably charm, for
Catherine more than once sent him on important embassies--once as
harbinger of her own coming to Pope Gregory at Avignon, and again, at a
later time, to the corrupt and brilliant court of Queen Giovanna at
Naples. In obedience to the dying wish of his spiritual mother--who
probably well understood his needs--he became a hermit after her death.

Catherine writes to this fine but fearful soul with an exquisite
tenderness. "Confusion of mind," with its inhibiting sadness and
helplessness, is of all evils in the world the one most abhorrent to her
clear, decisive, intuitive nature. Against this, his besetting danger, she
seeks with all her customary vigour to protect her beloved disciple. The
love rather than the wrath of God was, as we have seen, ever the chief
burden of Catherine's teaching. Never did she dwell on it more earnestly
than here, as with searching insight into the unfathomable depths of the
Divine mercy, she writes firmly: "His truth is this, that He created us to
give us life eternal." Her words must have brought reassurance to any
darkened vision, while her practical counsels were never more adapted to
individual need than in these peculiarly gentle letters, written to one
whose temptations and spiritual perils were far different from her own.

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 in the true light, that in the light may be known the truth of
thy Creator. His truth is this, that He created us to give us life
eternal. But because man rebelled against God, this truth was not
fulfilled, and therefore He descended to the greatest depths to which
descent is possible, when Deity assumed the vesture of our humanity. So we
see in this glorious light that God has been made man, and this He has
done to fulfil His truth in us: and He has shown this to us verily by the
Blood of the Loving Word, inasmuch that what we held by faith is proved to
us with the price of that Blood. The creature that has reason in itself
cannot deny that this is so.

I will, then, that thy confusion be consumed and vanish in the hope of the
Blood, and in the fire of the immeasurable Love of God; and that nothing
remain but the true knowledge of thyself, in which thou shalt humble thee
and grow, and nourish light in thy soul. Is not He more ready to pardon
than we to sin? And is not He the Physician and we the sick, the Bearer of
our iniquities? And does not He hold confusion of mind as worse than all
other faults? Yes, truly. Then, dearest son, open the eye of thine
intellect in the light of most holy faith, and behold how much thou art
beloved of God. And from beholding His love, and the ignorance and
coldness of thy heart, do not fall into confusion; but let the flame of
holy desire increase, with true knowledge and humility, as I said. And the
more thou seest that thou hast not responded to such great favours as thy
Creator has shown thee, humble thyself the more, and say with holy
resolution: "What I have not done to-day, I will do now." Thou knowest
that confusion is wholly discordant with the doctrine which has always
been given thee. It is a leprosy that dries up soul and body, and holds
them in continual affliction, and binds the arms of holy desire, and does
not let one do what one would; and it makes the soul unendurable to
itself, disposing the mind to conflicts and varying fantasies; it robs the
soul of supernatural light, and darkens its natural light. So one falls
into great faithlessness, because one does not know the truth of God, in
which He has created us--that is, that He created us in truth to give us
life eternal. Then with living faith, with holy desire, and with hope in
the Blood of Christ, let the devil of confusion be defeated.

I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. I pray Him to
give thee His sweet benediction. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.

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

Dearest and sweetest 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 in thee the light of most holy faith, in order
that thou mayest never be shocked by anything that may happen to thee; but
may thy mind be pacified concerning all the mysteries of God, as thou
beholdest the ineffable love which moved Him to draw forth from Himself
reasonable creatures, and to give us His image and likeness, and to buy us
with the Blood of the humble and spotless Lamb. Thus doing, thou wilt hold
all that happens to thee in due reverence, and in true humility thou wilt
deny mere appearances, when sometimes through the illusion of the devil
things seem to thee to get out of their right proportion, through thy many
mental occupations and sweet physical torments. I say no more. Remain in
the holy and sweet grace of God. May Christ the Blessed give thee His
eternal benediction. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.

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

Dearest and sweetest 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 ever grow from virtue to virtue, till I
behold thee return to that sea of peace where thou shalt never have any
fear of being separated from God. For the foul perverse law that fights
against the Spirit shall be left on earth, and shall have rendered its due
thereto. I will, sweet my son, that while thou livest in this life thou
exert thee to live dead to all self-will, and in such death thou shalt win
virtue. Thus living, thou shalt resign to earth the law of perverse
desire. So thou shalt not fear lest God permit in thy case what He
permitted in that other, nor shalt thou suffer, because for a little while
the human part of thee is separated from me and from the rest of the
family. Comfort thee, and may that which Truth says abide in thy mind--
that not one person shall be lost out of His hands. I say out of His
hands, because all things are His. And I know that thou understandest me
without many words. I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of
God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


"Teach us, O Lord, and enable us to live the life of saints and angels!"
cried Cardinal Newman. There is a lovely parallel to Catherine's prayer in
the Paternoster of Dante's blessed souls in Purgatory:

  "Come del suo voler gli angeli tuoi
  Fan sacrificio a te, cantando osanna,
  Cosi facciano gli uomini de' suoi."

From the gentle thoughts on non-resistance with which this letter opens,
Catherine turns with transition as fine as sudden to the splendid figure
of the holy soul as a horse without bridle, running most swiftly "from
grace to grace, from virtue to virtue." One is accustomed by Plato--not to
speak of Browning in "The Two Poets of Croisic"--to the image of the soul
as a charioteer. Catherine's metaphor is less familiar but not less
forceful. The will, to her, is only free when pure: impure and sinful
desires, far from being the sign of liberty, are the bit and bridle that
hinder its fiery course toward God. The same thought, less vividly put, is
found in a modern theologian--Dr. Moberly. "The real consummation of
either moral or immoral character," he writes, "would exclude the
ambiguity which was offered as the criterion of free will.... Full power
to sin is not the key to freedom. On the contrary, all inherent power to
do wrong is a direct infringement of the reality of free-will.... Free-
will is not the independence of the creature, but rather his self-
realisation in perfect dependence. Freedom is self-identity with

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

Dearest and most beloved daughters in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine,
servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, and your mother in
Christ, write to you and comfort you in the Precious Blood of the Son of
God, who was a gentle Lamb, spotless and slain not by power of nails or
lance, but by power of love and measureless charity which He felt and
still feels to His creatures. Oh, charity unspeakable of our God! Thou
hast taught me, Love most sweet, and hast shown me, not by words alone--
for Thou sayest that Thou dost not delight in many words--but by deeds,
in which Thou sayest that Thou dost delight, and which Thou dost demand
from Thy servants. And what hast Thou taught me, O Love Uncreate? Thou
hast taught me that I should bear, patiently like a lamb, not only harsh
words, but even blows harsh and hard and injury and loss. And with this
Thou dost will that I be innocent and spotless, harmful to no one of my
neighbours and brethren; not only in case of those who do not persecute
us, but in that of those who injure us; Thou dost will that we pray for
them as for special friends who give us a good and great gain. And Thou
dost will that we be patient and meek not only in injuries and temporal
losses, but universally, in everything that may be contrary to my will: as
Thou didst not will Thine own will to be done in anything, but the will of
Thy Father. How then shall we lift up our head against the goodness of
God, wishing that our perverted wills should be fulfilled? How shall we
not will that the will of God be fulfilled?

O Jesus, Most Sweet Love, make Thy will to be fulfilled in us ever, as in
Heaven by Thy Angels and saints! Dearest my daughter in Christ, this is
the meekness which our sweet Saviour wants to find in us: that we, with
hearts wholly peaceful and tranquil, be content with everything which He
plans and does concerning us, and wish neither times nor seasons in our
own way, but in His alone. Then the soul, so divested of its every wish
and clothed with the will of God, is very pleasing to God. Like an
unbridled horse, it runs most swiftly from grace to grace, from virtue to
virtue; for it has no bridle that holds or prevents it from running, since
it has severed from itself every inordinate appetite and impulse of its
own self-will, which are bands and bridles that do not allow the souls of
spiritual men to run.

The affairs of the Crusade are going constantly better and better, and the
honour of God is increasing every day. Increase constantly in virtue, and
furnish the ship of your soul, for our time draws near. Comfort and bless
Francesca, from Jesus Christ and me; and tell her to be zealous that I may
find her increased in virtue when I shall return. Bless and comfort all my
sons in Christ. Now this very day the ambassador of the Queen of Cyprus
came and talked to me. He is going to the Holy Father, Christ on earth, to
urge him concerning the affairs of the holy Crusade. And, moreover, the
Holy Father has sent to Genoa to urge them concerning the same thing.

Our sweet Saviour give you His eternal benediction! Remain in the holy and
sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


 _Which letter is one of credentials, certifying that he may put faith in
all things said to him by Fra Raimondo of Capua. Wherefore the said Fra
Raimondo went to the said Messer John, and the other captains, to induce
them to go over and fight against the infidels should it happen that
others should go. And before leaving he had from them and from Messer John
a promise on the sacrament that they would go, and they signed it with
their hands and sealed it with their seals._

 So runs the old heading to this letter. It is piquant to contemplate
Catherine writing to that picturesque gentleman, Sir John Hawkwood. Her
attitude of friendly and almost sisterly sympathy with the audacious free-
lance appears in her unwonted addition of the word "glory" to her usual
formula, "The honour of God and the salvation of souls," in the last
sentence. We are told that the letter and Fra Raimondo produced a real
impression, and that Hawkwood not only vowed himself to the Crusade, but
that, no Crusade occurring, he from this time bore arms only in regular
warfare. He who follows the Englishman's subsequent career may perhaps
wonder a little what "regular warfare" meant to his mind. Yet let us
remember to his credit that Hawkwood protested against the massacre of
Cesena--nor was this the only occasion on which his nature flashed for a
moment a chivalrous light. May his bones rest in peace in the Duomo of
Florence, that city to the gates of which he brought terror and dismay,
but which bore him no grudge, and at the end decreed him splendid
funerals, and sepulchre among her honoured sons!

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

To you, most beloved and dear brothers in Christ Jesus: I Catherine,
servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write in His precious
Blood: with desire to see you a true son and knight of Christ, in such
wise that you may desire to give your life a thousand times, if need were,
in service of sweet and good Jesus. This is a gift which would pay off all
our sins, which we have committed against our Saviour. Dearest and
sweetest brother in Christ Jesus, it would be a great thing now if you
would withdraw a little into yourself, and consider, and reflect how great
are the pains and anguish which you have endured by being in the service
and pay of the devil. Now my soul desires that you should change your way
of life, and take the pay and the cross of Christ crucified, you and all
your followers and companions; so that you may be Christ's company, to
march against the infidel dogs who possess our Holy Place, where rested
the Sweet Primal Truth and bore death and pains for us. I beg you, then,
gently in Christ Jesus, that since God and also our Holy Father have
ordered a crusade against the infidels, and you take such pleasure in war
and fighting, you should not make war against Christians any more--for
this is a wrong to God; but go against the infidels! For it is a great
cruelty that we who are Christians, and members bound in the Body of Holy
Church, should persecute one another. We are not to do so; but to rise
with perfect zeal, and to uplift ourselves above every evil thought.

I marvel much that you, having, as I heard, promised to be willing to go
to die for Christ in this holy crusade, are wanting to make war in these
parts. This is not that holy disposition which God demands from you if you
are to go to so holy and venerable a place. It seems to me that you ought
now, at this present time, to dispose you to virtue, until the time shall
come for us and the others who shall be ready to give their lives for
Christ: and thus you shall show that you are a manly and true knight.

There is coming to you this father and son of mine, Brother Raimondo, who
brings you this letter. Trust in what he tells you; because he is a true,
faithful servant of God, and will advise you and say to you nothing except
what will be to the honour of God and the safety and glory of your soul. I
say no more. I beg you, dearest brother, to keep in memory the shortness
of your time. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus,
Jesus Love.


Let us hope that the frivolous Monna Colomba listened to Catherine's
gentle but very explicit exhortations and turned away from her levities.
If she had a sense of humour--and it is a not uncommon possession of
light-minded elderly widows--she must have been lovingly entertained at
the pale virgin's identification of herself with those who "walk in the
way of luxuries and pleasures," and "set themselves up as an example of
sin and vanity." But Catherine's use of the first person in this
connection, strained though it may appear, is more than a figure of
speech, to soften the severity of her rebuke. We learn from the legend
that till the end of her life she never ceased to repent, bitterly and
with tears, for having at the age of twelve allowed an older sister to
dress her prettily, and blanch her hair after the fashion of the day. The
reason for this terrible lapse, as she told her confessor, was simply a
delight in beautiful things--but she always looked back on it with horror.

The application of the finding of Christ in the Temple, in this letter, is
curious, but not devoid of grace.

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

To you, dearest sister and daughter in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine,
servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write in His precious
Blood, with desire that I might see you a fruitful field, receiving the
seed of the Word of God, and bringing forth fruit for yourself and others.
I want to see you, who are now getting to be an old woman, and who are
free from worldly ties, a mirror of virtue to younger women, who are still
bound to the world by the tie of their husbands.

Alas, alas, I perceive that we are unfruitful ground, for we are letting
the Word of God be smothered by the inordinate affections and desires of
the world, and are walking in the way of its luxuries and pleasures,
studying to please our fellow-beings rather than our Creator. And there is
a more wretched thing yet, for our own evil-doing is not enough for us;
where we ought to be an example of virtue and modesty, we set ourselves up
as an example of sin and vanity. And as the devil was not willing to fall
alone, but wanted a large company with him, so we are enticing other
people to those same vanities and amusements that we indulge in ourselves.
You ought to withdraw, by love of virtue and your salvation, from vain
diversions and worldly weddings--for they do not suit your condition--and
try to keep others away, who would like to be there. But you talk bad
talk, and entice young women, who are wanting to withdraw from going to
these things through love of virtue, because they see that it is wronging
God. I do not wonder, then, if no fruit appears, since the seed is
smothered as I said. Perhaps you would find some excuse in saying,
"Still, I have to condescend to my friends and relatives by doing this, so
that they will not be annoyed and irritated with me." So fear and
perverted self-indulgence sap our life, and often kill us; rob us of the
perfection to which God chose and calls us. This excuse is not acceptable
to God; for we ought not to condescend to people in a matter which wrongs
God and our own soul; nor to love or serve them, except in those matters
which come from God and befit our condition.

Oh me, miserable! Was it our relatives or friends or any fellow-being who
bought us? No; Christ crucified alone was the Lamb who with love
unsearchable sacrificed His Body, making Him our Purification and Healing,
our Food and Raiment, and the Bed where we can rest. He had no regard to
love of self nor fleshly joy, but abased Himself in pain, enduring shames
and insults, seeking the honour of the Father and our salvation. It ill
befits that we poor miserable men should hold by another way than that
held by the Sweet Primal Truth.

You know that God is not found in luxuries and pleasures. We perceive that
when Our Saviour was lost in the Temple, going to the Feast, Mary could
not find Him among friends or relatives, but found Him in the Temple
disputing with the doctors. And this He did to give us an example--for He
is our Rule, and the Way we should follow. Notice that it says that He was
lost when going to the Feast. Know, most beloved sister, that, as was
said, God is not found at feasts or balls or games or weddings or places
of recreation. Nay, going there is a very sure means of losing Him, and
falling into many sins and faults, and inordinate frivolous self-
indulgence. Since this is the reason that has made us lose God by grace,
is there any way to find Him again? Yes; to accompany Mary. Let us seek
Him with her, in bitterness and pain and distaste for the fault committed
against our Creator, to condescend to the will of men. It befits us then
to go to the Temple, and there He is found. Let our hearts, our minds, and
desires be lifted up with this Company of Bitterness, and let us go to the
Temple of our soul, and there we shall know ourselves. Then the soul,
recognizing itself not to be, will recognize the goodness of God towards
it, who is He who is. Then the will shall be uplifted with zeal, and shall
love what God loves and hate what God hates. Then, as it enters into
reason with itself, it will rebuke the memory which has held in itself the
gaieties and pleasures of the world, and has nor held nor retained the
favours and gifts and great benefits of God, who has given Himself to us
with so great fire of love. It will rebuke the mind, which has given
itself to understand the will of fellow-creatures, and the shows and
observances of the world, rather than the will of its Creator, and
therefore will and fleshly love have turned them to love and desire those
gross things of sense, which pass like the wind. The soul should not do
thus, but should note and know the will of God, which seeks and wants
naught but our sanctification, and has therefore given us life.

God has not set you free from the world, for you are smothered and drowned
in the world by your affections and inordinate desires. Now, have you more
than one soul? No. If you had two, you might give one to God and the other
to the world. Nor have you more than one body, and this gets tired over
every little thing.

Be a dispenser to the poor of your temporal substance. Submit you to the
yoke of holy and true obedience. Kill, kill your own will, that it may not
be so tied to your relatives, and mortify your body, and do not so pamper
it in delicate ways. Despise yourself, and have in regard neither rank nor
riches, for virtue is the only thing that makes us gentlefolk, and the
riches of this life are the worst of poverty when possessed with
inordinate love apart from God. Recall to memory what the glorious Jerome
said about this, which one can never repeat often enough, forbidding that
widows should abound in daintiness, or keep their face anointed, or their
garments choice or delicate. Nor should their conversation be with vain or
dissolute young women, but in the cell: they should do like the turtle-
dove, who, when her companion has died, mourns for ever, and keeps to
herself, and wants no other company. Limit your intercourse, dearest and
most beloved Sister, to Christ crucified; set your affection and desire on
following Him by the way of shame and true humility, in gentleness,
binding you to the Lamb with the bands of charity.

This my soul desires, that you may be a true daughter, and a bride
consecrated to Christ, and a fruitful field, not sterile, but full of the
sweet fruits of true virtues. Hasten, hasten, for time is short and the
road is long. And if you gave all you have in the world, time would not
pause for you from running its course. I say no more. Remain in the holy
and sweet grace of God. Pardon me if I have said too many words, for the
love and zeal that I have for your salvation have made me say them. Know
that I would far rather do something for you than merely talk. May God
fill you with His most sweet Favour. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


The following is one of the famous letters of the world. The record in art
and literature of the scene which it depicts has carried knowledge of
Catherine to many who otherwise would have but the vaguest idea of her
personality. The letter has been frequently translated, but most of the
translators have avoided the opening and closing paragraphs, with their
amazing, confused, and to our modern taste almost shocking metaphors.
Surely, however, we want the whole just as Catherine poured it out; full
of intense excitement, her emotions clearer than her ideas, lifted into a
region where taste and logic have no meaning, and using, to convey the
inexpressible feelings quickened by the events she describes, homeliest
figures of speech, such as her commercial surroundings naturally suggest
to her. For the matter of that, modern congregations sing with no

  "Jesus let me still abide
  In Thy heart and Wounded Side."

The reiteration of the figure of the Blood is here psychologically
inevitable. Catherine writes still quivering from close contact with the
victim of a mediaeval execution.

A young gentleman from Perugia, Niccolo Tuldo by name, had been condemned
to death for speaking critically of the Sienese Government. It does not
appear that he was a serious political conspirator, but simply a young man
whose aristocratic sympathies led him thoughtlessly to the use of haughty
or bitter speech. But a _parvenu_ Government is always sensitive. We hear
of a man at this time being condemned and executed because he had not
invited one of the Riformatori to a feast!

Death was lightly inflicted in those days: probably it was no more lightly
suffered than in our own. We have vivid accounts of the incredulity with
which Niccolo Tuldo received his sentence--incredulity leading to horror,
to rage, to rebellion, to black despair. Then Catherine went to him; her
own words tell the rest. As one reads of the wonderful effect of her
soothing presence, as one sees the terrified youth becoming quiet and
subdued, clinging wistfully to the spiritual strength of this frail woman,
and catching at the end not only her spirit of calm submission, but even
something of her exaltation, one is irresistibly reminded of another
scene--George Eliot's marvellous description in "Adam Bede" of Dinah's
ministry to Hetty in the prison. But this scene is real, that only
imagined; and here no third person, but the consoler herself, reveals the
meaning of the experience to her own spirit.

In bringing Niccolo Tuldo to so illumined an end that he recognized the
judgment-place as holy, and died in full accord with the will of God,
Catherine achieved a great marvel which only Christianity can compass: she
lifted one of those seemingly purposeless and cruel accidents of destiny
which stagger faith, into unity with the organic work of the world's

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

Most beloved and dearest father and dear my son in Christ Jesus: I
Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write to
you, commending myself to you in the precious Blood of the Son of God;
with desire to see you inflamed and drowned in that His sweetest Blood,
which is blended with the fire of His most ardent charity. This my soul
desires, to see you therein, you and Nanni and Jacopo my son. I see no
other remedy by which we may reach those chief virtues which are necessary
to us. Sweetest father, your soul, which has made itself food for me--(and
no moment of time passes that I do not receive this food at the table of
the sweet Lamb slain with such ardent love)--your soul, I say, would not
attain the little virtue, true humility, were it not drowned in the Blood.
This virtue shall be born from hate, and hate from love. Thus the soul is
born with very perfect purity, as iron issues purified from the furnace.

I will, then, that you lock you in the open side of the Son of God, which
is an open treasure-house, full of fragrance, even so that sin itself
there becomes fragrant. There rests the sweet Bride on the bed of fire and
blood. There is seen and shown the secret of the heart of the Son of God.
Oh, flowing Source, which givest to drink and excitest every loving
desire, and givest gladness, and enlightenest every mind and fillest every
memory which fixes itself thereon! so that naught else can be held or
meant or loved, save this sweet and good Jesus! Blood and fire,
immeasurable Love! Since my soul shall be blessed in seeing you thus
drowned, I will that you do as he who draws up water with a bucket, and
pours it over something else; thus do you pour the water of holy desire on
the head of your brothers, who are our members, bound to us in the body of
the sweet Bride. And beware, lest through illusion of the devils--who I
know have given you trouble, and will give you--or through the saying of
some fellow-creature, you should ever draw back: but persevere always in
the hour when things look most cold, until we may see blood shed with
sweet and enamoured desires.

Up, up, sweetest my father! and let us sleep no more! For I hear such news
that I wish no more bed of repose or worldly state. I have just received a
Head in my hands, which was to me of such sweetness as heart cannot think,
nor tongue say, nor eye see, nor the ears hear. The will of God went on
through the other mysteries wrought before; of which I do not tell, for it
would be too long. I went to visit him whom you know: whence he received
such comfort and consolation that he confessed, and prepared himself very
well. And he made me promise by the love of God that when the time of the
sentence should come, I would be with him. So I promised, and did. Then in
the morning, before the bell rang, I went to him: and he received great
consolation. I led him to hear Mass, and he received the Holy Communion,
which he had never before received. His will was accorded and submitted to
the will of God; and only one fear was left, that of not being strong at
the moment. But the measureless and glowing goodness of God deceived him,
creating in him such affection and love in the desire of God that he did
not know how to abide without Him, and said: "Stay with me, and do not
abandon me. So it shall not be otherwise than well with me. And I die
content." And he held his head upon my breast. I heard then the rejoicing,
and breathed the fragrance of his blood; and it was not without the
fragrance of mine, which I desire to shed for the sweet Bridegroom Jesus.
And, desire waxing in my soul, feeling his fear, I said: "Comfort thee,
sweet my brother; since we shall soon arrive at the Wedding Feast. Thou
shalt go there bathed in the sweet Blood of the Son of God, with the sweet
Name of Jesus, which I will never to leave thy memory. And I await thee at
the place of justice." Now think, father and son, his heart then lost all
fear, and his face changed from sorrow to gladness; and he rejoiced, he
exulted, and said: "Whence comes such grace to me, that the sweetness of
my soul will await me at the holy place of justice?" See, that he had come
to so much light that he called the place of justice holy! And he said: "I
shall go wholly joyous, and strong, and it will seem to me a thousand
years before I arrive, thinking that you are awaiting me there." And he
said words so sweet as to break one's heart, of the goodness of God.

I waited for him then at the place of justice; and waited there with
constant prayer, in the presence of Mary and of Catherine, Virgin and
martyr. But before I attained, I prostrated me, and stretched my neck upon
the block; but my desire did not come there, for I had too full
consciousness of myself. Then up! I prayed, I constrained her, I cried
"Mary!" for I wished this grace, that at the moment of death she should
give him a light and a peace in his heart, and then I should see him reach
his goal. Then my soul became so full that although a multitude of people
were there, I could see no human creature, for the sweet promise made to

Then he came, like a gentle lamb; and seeing me, he began to smile, and
wanted me to make the sign of the Cross. When he had received the sign, I
said: "Down! To the Bridal, sweetest my brother! For soon shalt thou be in
the enduring life." He prostrated him with great gentleness, and I
stretched out his neck; and bowed me down, and recalled to him the Blood
of the Lamb. His lips said naught save Jesus! and, Catherine! And so
saying, I received his head in my hands, closing my eyes in the Divine
Goodness, and saying, "I will!"

Then was seen God-and-Man, as might the clearness of the sun be seen. And
He stood wounded, and received the blood; in that blood a fire of holy
desire, given and hidden in the soul by grace. He received it in the fire
of His divine charity. When He had received his blood and his desire, He
also received his soul, which He put into the open treasure-house of His
Side, full of mercy; the primal Truth showing that by grace and mercy
alone He received it, and not for any other work. Oh, how sweet and
unspeakable it was to see the goodness of God! with what sweetness and
love He awaited that soul departed from the body! He turned the eye of
mercy toward her, when she came to enter within His Side, bathed in blood
which availed through the Blood of the Son of God. Thus received by God
through power--powerful is He to do! the Son also, Wisdom the Word
Incarnate, gave him and made him share the crucified love with which He
received painful and shameful death through the obedience which he showed
to the Father, for the good of the human race. And the hands of the Holy
Spirit locked him within.

But he made a gesture sweet enough to draw a thousand hearts. And I do not
wonder, for already he tasted the divine sweetness. He turned as does the
Bride when she has reached the threshold of her bridegroom, who turns back
her head and her look, bowing to those who have accompanied her, and with
the gesture she gives signs of thanks.

When he was at rest, my soul rested in peace and in quiet, in so great
fragrance of blood that I could not bear to remove the blood which had
fallen on me from him.

Ah me, miserable! I will say no more. I stayed on the earth with the
greatest envy. And it seems to me that the first new stone is already in
place. Therefore do not wonder if I impose upon you nothing save to see
yourselves drowned in the blood and flame poured from the side of the Son
of God. Now then, no more negligence, sweetest my sons, since the blood is
beginning to flow, and to receive the life. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


This is the first letter to Gregory which has come down to us; it may or
may not have been the first which Catherine wrote him. That she had had
relations with him earlier seems fairly certain. As early as 1372 we find
her writing to Gerard du Puy, a relative of the Pope and Papal Legate in
Tuscany. This letter is evidently a reply, and contains passages which she
apparently expected du Puy to share with Gregory. Perhaps Gregory had made
approaches to her through his cousin. There was nothing unlikely at that
time in such action on the part of a great churchman, who, man of the
world though he was, retained a sincere reverence for humble men and

Be this as it may, Catherine in her letter to Gerard du Puy writes
concerning the condition of the Church in the strain of indignant sorrow
which she was to hold till her death: "In reply to the first of the three
things you ask me, I will say that I believe that our sweet Christ on
earth should do away entirely with two things which ravage the Bride of
Christ. The first is the over-great tenderness and care for relatives,
which ought to be entirely mortified. The other is that over-great good
nature which is founded on too great mercy.... Christ holds three vices as
especially evil--impurity, avarice, and swollen pride, which reign in the
Bride of Christ among the prelates, who care for nothing but luxuries and
honours and vast riches. A strong justice is needed to correct them, for
too great pity is the greatest cruelty. As to the other question, I say:
When I told you that you should toil for Holy Church, I was not thinking
only of the labours you should assume about temporal things, but chiefly
that you and the Holy Father ought to toil and do what you can to get rid
of the wolfish shepherds who care for nothing but eating and fine palaces
and big horses. Oh me, that which Christ won upon the wood of the Cross is
spent with harlots! I beg that if you were to die for it, you tell the
Holy Father to put an end to such iniquities. And when the time comes to
make priests or cardinals, let them not be chosen through flatteries or
moneys or simony; but beg him, as far as you can, that he notice well if
virtue and a good and holy fame are found in the man; and let him not
prefer a gentleman to a tradesman, for virtue is the thing that makes a
man gentle." Savonarola could hardly say more.

This present letter must date from 1375, for the rebellion of the Tuscan
cities was gathering when she wrote. It is evident that Catherine at the
time had never met the Pope personally. She must, however, have gained
from hearsay a fairly just idea of his character; in the letter--one of
the most carefully composed which we have from her--we see her approaching
him with frankness, dignity, and courage, and also with a rare degree of
tact. It was one thing to speak her mind out through Gerard du Puy: it
must have been another to speak directly to the Head of Christendom. How
Catherine acquits herself the reader may judge. The hint that the "sweet
Christ on earth," the father of the faithful, lacks self-knowledge, is
made so delicately that offence could not be taken; yet as she proceeds
the indirect suggestion becomes unmistakable. Gregory is that weak prelate
in whom through self-indulgence holy justice is dead or dying; the smooth,
peaceable man, who to avoid incurring displeasure, shuts his eyes to the
corruption of the Church and the sins of her priests; he is the indolent
physician who anoints when he should cauterize. As soon as she deems his
mind prepared, comes the direct statement: "I hope by the goodness of God,
venerable father mine, that you will quench this [self-love] in yourself,
and will not love yourself for your own sake, nor your neighbour, nor
God." Nor does she shrink from more specific mention of the dangers which
beset him, in his devotion to the interests of "friends and parents," and
considerations of temporal policy.

It is with relief, here as ever, that Catherine passes from criticism
implied or explicit to a strain of high enthusiasm by which she tries to
rouse the soul to all of latent manhood it may possess. She heartens
Gregory with stirring appeal to the memories of his great predecessors--
yet more with impassioned reminder of that mystery of divine love and
sacrifice from which their strength was drawn. All that was possible to
them is possible to him, "for the same God is now that was then." "And if
up to this time we have not stood very firm," she says--associating
herself, as usual, with the weakness she would condemn--"I wish and pray
in truth that you deal manfully with the moment of time which remains,
following Christ, whose vicar you are." Gentle encouragement, and a
curious tone of almost maternal tenderness, pervade the rest of the
letter. In dealing with the political situation which Gregory confronted,
Catherine speaks without reserve. The suggestions concerning practical
matters with which the letter closes are lucid and to the point.
Altogether, it is a masterly document which the daughter of Jacopo
Benincasa despatches to the Head of Christendom. Reading it, one finds no
difficulty in understanding the influence which, as the sequel shows, she
established over the sensitive and religious if weak spirit of Gregory XI.

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

To you, most reverend and beloved father in Christ Jesus, your unworthy,
poor, miserable daughter Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of
Jesus Christ, writes in His precious Blood; with desire to see you a
fruitful tree, full of sweet and mellow fruits, and planted in fruitful
earth--for if it were out of the earth the tree would dry up and bear no
fruit--that is, in the earth of true knowledge of yourself. For the soul
that knows itself humbles itself, because it sees nothing to be proud of;
and ripens the sweet fruit of very ardent charity, recognizing in itself
the unmeasured goodness of God; and aware that it is not, it attributes
all its being to Him who Is. Whence, then, it seems that the soul is
constrained to love what God loves and to hate what He hates.

Oh, sweet and true knowledge, which dost carry with thee the knife of
hate, and dost stretch out the hand of holy desire, to draw forth and kill
with this hate the worm of self-love--a worm that spoils and gnaws the
root of our tree so that it cannot bear any fruit of life, but dries up,
and its verdure lasts not! For if a man loves himself, perverse pride,
head and source of every ill, lives in him, whatever his rank may be,
prelate or subject. If he is lover of himself alone--that is, if he loves
himself for his own sake and not for God--he cannot do other than ill, and
all virtue is dead in him. Such a one is like a woman who brings forth her
sons dead. And so it really is; for he has not had the life of charity in
himself, and has cared only for praise and self-glory, and not for the
name of God. I say, then: if he is a prelate, he does ill, because to
avoid falling into disfavour with his fellow-creatures--that is, through
self-love--in which he is bound by self-indulgence--holy justice dies in
him. For he sees his subjects commit faults and sins, and pretends not to
see them and fails to correct them; or if he does correct them, he does it
with such coldness and lukewarmness that he does not accomplish anything,
but plasters vice over; and he is always afraid of giving displeasure or
of getting into a quarrel. All this is because he loves himself. Sometimes
men like this want to get along with purely peaceful means. I say that
this is the very worst cruelty which can be shown. If a wound when
necessary is not cauterized or cut out with steel, but simply covered with
ointment, not only does it fail to heal, but it infects everything, and
many a time death follows from it.

Oh me, oh me, sweetest "Babbo" mine! This is the reason that all the
subjects are corrupted by impurity and iniquity. Oh me, weeping I say it!
How dangerous is that worm we spoke of! For not only does it give death to
the shepherd, but all the rest fall into sickness and death through it.
Why does that shepherd go on using so much ointment? Because he does not
suffer in consequence! For no displeasure visits one and no ill will, from
spreading ointment over the sick; since one does nothing contrary to their
will; they wanted ointment, and so ointment is given them. Oh, human
wretchedness! Blind is the sick man who does not know his own need, and
blind the shepherd-physician, who has regard to nothing but pleasing, and
his own advantage--since, not to forfeit it, he refrains from using the
knife of justice or the fire of ardent charity! But such men do as Christ
says: for if one blind man guide the other, both fall into the ditch. Sick
man and physician fall into hell. Such a man is a right hireling shepherd,
for, far from dragging his sheep from the hands of the wolf, he devours
them himself. The cause of all this is, that he loves himself apart from
God: so he does not follow sweet Jesus, the true Shepherd, who has given
His life for His sheep. Truly, then, this perverse love is perilous for
one's self and for others, and truly to be shunned, since it works too
much harm to every generation of people. I hope by the goodness of God,
venerable father mine, that you will quench this in yourself, and will not
love yourself for yourself, nor your neighbour for yourself, nor God; but
will love Him because He is highest and eternal Goodness, and worthy of
being loved; and yourself and your neighbour you will love to the honour
and glory of the sweet Name of Jesus. I will, then, that you be so true
and good a shepherd that if you had a hundred thousand lives you would be
ready to give them all for the honour of God and the salvation of His
creatures. O "Babbo" mine, sweet Christ on earth, follow that sweet
Gregory (the Great)! For all will be possible to you as to him; for he was
not of other flesh than you; and that God is now who was then: we lack
nothing save virtue, and hunger for the salvation of souls. But there is a
remedy for this, father: that we flee the love spoken of above, for
ourselves and every creature apart from God. Let no more note be given to
friends or parents or one's temporal needs, but only to virtue and the
exaltation of things spiritual. For temporal things are failing you from
no other cause than from your neglect of the spiritual.

Now, then, do we wish to have that glorious hunger which these holy and
true shepherds of the past have felt, and to quench in ourselves that fire
of self-love? Let us do as they, who with fire quenched fire; for so great
was the fire of inestimable and ardent charity that burned in their hearts
and souls, that they were an-hungered and famished for the savour of
souls. Oh, sweet and glorious fire, which is of such power that it
quenches fire, and every inordinate delight and pleasure and all love of
self; and this love is like a drop of water, which is swiftly consumed in
the furnace! Should one ask me how men attained that sweet fire and
hunger--inasmuch as we are surely in ourselves unfruitful trees--I say
that those men grafted themselves into the fruitful tree of the most holy
and sweet Cross, where they found the Lamb, slain with such fire of love
for our salvation as seems insatiable. Still He cries that He is athirst,
as if saying: "I have greater ardour and desire and thirst for your
salvation than I show you with My finished Passion." O sweet and good
Jesus! Let pontiffs shame them, and shepherds, and every other creature,
for our ignorance and pride and self-indulgence, in the presence of so
great largess and goodness and ineffable love on the part of our Creator!
He has revealed Himself to us in our humanity, a Tree full of sweet and
mellow fruits, in order that we, wild trees, might graft ourselves in Him.
Now in this wise wrought that enamoured Gregory, and those other good
shepherds: knowing that they had no virtue in themselves, and gazing upon
the Word, our Tree, they grafted themselves in Him, bound and chained by
the bands of love. For in that which the eye sees does it delight, when
the thing is fair and good. They saw, then, and seeing they so bound them
that they saw not themselves, but saw and tasted everything in God. And
there was neither wind nor hail nor demons nor creatures that could keep
them from bearing cultivated fruits: since they were grafted in the
substance of our Tree, Jesus. They brought forth their fruits, then, from
the substance of sweet charity, in which they were united. And there is no
other way.

This is what I wish to see in you. And if up to this time, we have not
stood very firm, I wish and pray in truth that the moment of time which
remains be dealt with manfully, following Christ, whose vicar you are,
like a strong man. And fear not, father, for anything that may result from
those tempestuous winds that are now beating against you, those decaying
members which have rebelled against you. Fear not; for divine aid is near.
Have a care for spiritual things alone, for good shepherds, good rulers,
in your cities--since on account of bad shepherds and rulers you have
encountered rebellion. Give us, then, a remedy; and comfort you in Christ
Jesus, and fear not. Press on, and fulfil with true zeal and holy what you
have begun with a holy resolve, concerning your return, and the holy and
sweet crusade. And delay no longer, for many difficulties have occurred
through delay, and the devil has risen up to prevent these things being
done, because he perceives his own loss. Up, then, father, and no more
negligence! Raise the gonfalon of the most holy Cross, for with the
fragrance of the Cross you shall win peace. I beg you to summon those who
have rebelled against you to a holy peace, so that all warfare may be
turned against the infidels. I hope by the infinite goodness of God that
He will swiftly send His aid. Comfort you, comfort you, and come, come, to
console the poor, the servants of God, your sons! We await you with eager
and loving desire. Pardon me, father, that I have said so many words to
you. You know that through the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
I am certain that if you shall be the kind of tree I wish to see you,
nothing will hinder you.

I beg you to send to Lucca and to Pisa with fatherly proposals, as God
shall instruct you, supporting them so far as can be, and summoning them
to remain firm and persevering. I have been at Pisa and at Lucca, up to
now, influencing them as much as I can not to make a league with the
decaying members that are rebelling against you: but they are in great
perplexity, because they have no comfort from you, and are constantly
urged to make it and threatened from the contrary side. However, up to the
present time, they have not wholly consented. I beg you also to write
emphatically to Messer Piero: and do it zealously, and do not delay. I say
no more.

I have heard here that you have appointed the cardinals. I believe that it
would honour God and profit us more if you would take heed always to
appoint virtuous men. If the contrary is done, it will be a great insult
to God, and disaster to Holy Church. Let us not wonder later if God sends
us His disciplines and scourges; for the thing is just. I beg you to do
what you have to do manfully and in the fear of God.

I have heard that you are to promote the Master of our Order to another
benefice. Therefore I beg you, by the love of Christ crucified, that if
this is so you will take pains to give us a good and virtuous Vicar. The
Order has need of it, for it has run altogether too wild. You can talk of
this with Messer Niccola da Osimo and the Archbishop of Tronto; and I will
write them about it.

Remain in the sweet and holy grace of God. I ask you humbly for your
blessing. Pardon my presumption, that I presume to write to you. Sweet
Jesus, Jesus Love.


There is less formality here than in the first letter to Gregory.
Catherine in writing to the Pope soon felt herself as much at home as a
child in her earthly father's house. The little pet name, "Babbo," which
she habitually uses to him, could be translated only by "Daddy"--which
would sound so strange in English ears that it seems best to let the
Italian stand. There is something touching as well as entertaining in the
spirit of childlike freedom to which such a term bears witness.

The Anti-Papal League has become a grim reality. The un-Christian pomp and
arrogance of ruling prelates, the mean cruelty of William of Noellet in
refusing to allow corn to be imported from the Papal States in Tuscany in
time of famine, the harshness and lack of tact in the policy of Gregory
toward his unsatisfactory children, were all forces potent to destroy
among the rebels any strong sense of committing a religious crime in their
opposition to the Church. Catherine stands as mediator between the two
parties. Not for a moment condoning the sin of a rebellion heinous indeed
in her eyes, she yet does not allow the Pope to forget that the chief
cause of the trouble has been the unjust and iniquitous things which the
Florentines have endured from the Legates--men "whom you know yourself"--
so she writes with vigorous plebeian candour--"whom you know yourself to
be incarnate demons"! Let God's vicegerent, then, show forth the love of
God, and find in the divine attitude toward rebellious man an example for
his own attitude toward his rebellious cities. Conciliation is to her mind
the only wisdom. There is practical sagacity in her remark in another
letter: "On with benignity, father! For know that every rational creature
is more easily conquered by love and benignity than by anything else: and
especially these Italians of ours in these parts. I do not see any other
way in which you can conquer them, but if you do this you can do anything
you like with them."

The beautiful opening meditation on the Love of God as shown in creation
and redemption is then no mere general exordium, but in close dramatic
unity with the sequel of the letter. The Augustinian theology, however
alien to our modern modes of thought, has, as she puts it, a nobility not
to be ignored. As presented briefly here, and more grandly by Dante in the
seventh canto of the _Paradiso_, it represents the supreme effort of the
law-reverencing mind of the Latin Church to formulate the methods of
Infinite Love. In the curious figure of the Tournament, we have a
characteristic play of mediaeval fancy. As Langland puts it, a little

  "Then was Faith in a fenestre, and cryed: Ah! Fili David!
  As doth an heraude of armes when adventrous cometh to jousts.
  Olde Jewes of Jerusalem for joy they sungen,
    Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
  Then I fraynèd at Faith what all that fare meant,
  And who should joust in Jerusalem: 'Jesus,' he said,
  'And fetch that the fiend claimeth: Piers' fruit the Plowman.'
  'Is Piers in this place?' quoth I: and he winked at me,--
  'This Jesus of His gentrice will joust in Piers' armes,
  In his helme and in his habergeon, humana natura.'"

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

Most holy and most reverend my father in Christ Jesus: I Catherine your
poor unworthy daughter, servant and slave of the servants of Christ, write
to you in His precious Blood; with desire to see you a good shepherd. For
I reflect, sweet my "Babbo," that the wolf is carrying away your sheep,
and there is no one found to help them. So I hasten to you, our father and
our shepherd, begging you on behalf of Christ crucified to learn from Him,
who with such fire of love gave Himself to the shameful death of the most
holy Cross, to rescue that lost sheep, the human race, from the hands of
the demons; because, through man's rebellion against God, they were
holding it for their own possession.

Then comes the Infinite Goodness of God, and sees the evil state and the
loss and the ruin of these sheep, and sees that they cannot be won back by
wrath or war. So, notwithstanding that it has been wronged by them--since
man deserved an infinite penalty for his disobedient rebellion against
God--Highest and Eternal Wisdom will not do thus; but finds an attractive
way, the most gentle and loving possible to find. For it sees that the
heart of man is in no wise so drawn as by love, because he was made by
love. This seems to be the reason why he loves so much, that he was made
by nothing but love, both his soul and his body. For by love God created
him in His Image and Likeness, and by love his father and mother gave him
substance, conceiving and bearing a son. God, therefore, seeing that man
is so ready to love, throws the book of love straight at him, giving him
the Word His Only-Begotten Son, who takes our humanity, to make a great
peace. But justice wills that vengeance should be wrought for the wrong
that has been done to God: so comes Divine Mercy and unspeakable Charity,
and to satisfy justice and mercy condemns His Son to death, having clothed
Him in our humanity--that is, with the clay of Adam, who sinned. So by His
death the wrath of the Father is pacified, having wrought justice on the
person of His son: so He has satisfied justice and has satisfied mercy,
releasing the human race from the hands of demons. This sweet Word jousted
in His arms upon the wood of the most holy Cross, death making a
tournament with life, and life with death: so that by His death He
destroyed our death, and to give us life He sacrificed the life of His
body. So then with love He has drawn us, and has conquered our malice with
His benignness, in so much that every heart should be drawn to Him: since
greater love one cannot show--and this He Himself said--than to give one's
life for one's friend. And if He commends the love which gives one's life
for a friend, what, then, shall we say of that most burning and complete
love which gave its life for its foe? For we through sin had been made
foes of God. Oh, sweet and amorous Word, who with love hast found thy
flock once more, and with love hast given Thy life for them, and hast
brought them back into the fold, restoring to them the Grace which they
had lost!

Holiest sweet "Babbo" mine, I see no other way for us, and no other help
in winning back your sheep, which have left the fold of Holy Church in
rebellion, not obedient nor subject to you, their father. I pray you
therefore, on behalf of Christ crucified, and I will that you do me this
grace, to overcome their malice with your benignity. Yours we are, father!
I know and recognize that they all feel that they have done wrong; but
although they have no excuse for their evil deeds, nevertheless it seemed
to them that they could not do otherwise on account of the many sufferings
and unjust and iniquitous things that they endured from bad shepherds and
governors. For, breathing the stench of the life of many rulers whom you
know yourself to be incarnate demons, they fell into the worst of fears,
so that they did like Pilate, who, not to lose the government, killed
Christ; so did they, for not to lose the state, they persecuted you. I ask
you, then, father, to show them mercy. Do not have regard to the ignorance
and pride of your sons; but with the food of love and of your benignity,
inflicting such sweet discipline and benign reproof as shall please your
Holiness, restore peace to us miserable children who have done wrong. I
tell you, sweet Christ on earth, on behalf of Christ in Heaven, that if
you do thus, without any strife or tempest, they will all come, grieving
for the wrong they have done, and will put their heads in your bosom. Then
you will rejoice, and we shall rejoice, because by love you have restored
the wandering sheep to the fold of Holy Church. And then, sweet my
"Babbo," you will fulfil your holy desire and the will of God, by making
the holy Crusade, which I summon you in His Name to do swiftly and without
negligence. They will turn to it with great eagerness; they are ready to
give their life for Christ. Ah me, God, sweet Love! Raise swiftly,
"Babbo," the gonfalon of the most holy Cross, and you will see the wolves
become lambs. Peace, peace, peace, that war may not delay this happy time!
But if you will wreak vengeance and justice, take them upon me, poor
wretch, and give me any pain and torment that may please you, even to
death. I believe that through the stench of my iniquities many evils have
happened, and many misfortunes and discords. On me, then, your poor
daughter, take any vengeance that you will. Ah me, father, I die of grief
and cannot die! Come, come, and resist no more the will of God that calls
you; and the hungry sheep await your coming to hold and possess the place
of your predecessor and champion, Apostle Peter. For you, as the Vicar of
Christ, should rest in your own place. Come, then, come, and delay no
more; and comfort you, and fear not for anything that might happen, since
God will be with you. I ask humbly your benediction, for me and for all my
sons; and I beg you to pardon my presumption. I say no more. Remain in the
holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


  "Ahi, Constantin, di quanto mal fu matre,
  Non la tua conversion, ma quella dote
  Che da te prese il primo ricco patre!"

"For ever since Holy Church has aimed more at temporal than at spiritual
things, matters have gone from bad to worse." Catherine's sorrowful
denunciations of the sins of the Church recall the thought of Dante, the
thought of Petrarch--which is also the thought of all the great saints,
seers, and loyal Catholics, to whom through the Christian ages the
shortcoming of their spiritual mother has meant grief beyond words. The
lovely conception of Holy Church as a garden, borrowed though it be from
Holy Writ, she has made peculiarly her own by constant repetition. We
recognize in it the womanly imagination which, we are told, always found
refreshment in wreathing fragrant flowers and walking abroad through the
fields and woods.

Catherine in this letter presents explicitly her threefold policy: reform
of the Church, return to Rome, the initiation of a Crusade. In her little
letter to Sir John Hawkwood, we have already seen her devotion to this
last cause. A Crusade in the fourteenth century was not to be.
Nevertheless, Catherine never showed more political wisdom than in this
matter, and it was the one aim of her life in which she wholly failed. We
have in the Legenda Minore a racy account of a personal interview with
Gregory on the subject, in which she presented cogent considerations to
him. She shrewdly suggested that the mercenary troops who ravaged Italy,
and were "the very cause and nourishment of war," would gladly turn their
arms against the infidel, "For there are few people so wicked that they
are not willing to serve God by indulging their taste: all men would
gladly expiate their sins by doing what they enjoy." Behind all such
considerations of policy, however, lay, as we clearly see, the intense
desire that the infidels should be saved. And not for their own sake only.
Desperate and desolate as she beheld the worldliness of Christian folk,
and their remoteness from the faith and ardour of an earlier time,
Catherine ventured to dream that new converts, won from the peoples that
sat in darkness, might revive the spiritual life of Christendom by the
infusion of spiritual passion strong in young purity. "Oh, what joy it
would be," she wrote to Gregory, "could we see the Christian people
convert the Infidel! For when they had once received the Light, they might
reach great perfection, like a young plant which has escaped the wintry
cold of faithlessness, and expands in the warmth and light of the Holy
Spirit; so they might bear flowers and fruits of virtue in the mystical
body of Holy Church; so that the fragrance of their virtue might help us
to drive away the sins and vice, the pride and impurity, which abound to-
day among the Christian people, and above all among those high in Holy

It was a strange dream, and hopeless; but it was the dream of a saint.

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

Most holy and dear and sweet father in Christ sweet Jesus: I your unworthy
daughter Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ,
write to you in His precious Blood. With desire have I desired to see in
you the fulness of divine grace, in such wise that you may be the means,
through divine grace, of pacifying all the universal world. Therefore, I
beg you, sweet my father, to use the instrument of your power and virtue,
with zeal, and hungry desire for the peace and honour of God and the
salvation of souls. And should you say to me, father--"The world is so
ravaged! How shall I attain peace?" I tell you, on behalf of Christ
crucified, it befits you to achieve three chief things through your power.
Do you uproot in the garden of Holy Church the malodorous flowers, full of
impurity and avarice, swollen with pride: that is, the bad priests and
rulers who poison and rot that garden. Ah me, you our Governor, do you use
your power to pluck out those flowers! Throw them away, that they may have
no rule! Insist that they study to rule themselves in holy and good life.
Plant in this garden fragrant flowers, priests and rulers who are true
servants of Jesus Christ, and care for nothing but the honour of God and
the salvation of souls, and are fathers of the poor. Alas, what confusion
is this, to see those who ought to be a mirror of voluntary poverty, meek
as lambs, distributing the possessions of Holy Church to the poor: and
they appear in such luxury and state and pomp and worldly vanity, more
than if they had turned them to the world a thousand times! Nay, many
seculars put them to shame who live a good and holy life. But it seems
that Highest and Eternal Goodness is having that done by force which is
not done by love; it seems that He is permitting dignities and luxuries to
be taken away from His Bride, as if He would show that Holy Church should
return to her first condition, poor, humble, and meek as she was in that
holy time when men took note of nothing but the honour of God and the
salvation of souls, caring for spiritual things and not for temporal. For
ever since she has aimed more at temporal than at spiritual, things have
gone from bad to worse. See therefore that God, in judgment, has allowed
much persecution and tribulation to befall her. But comfort you, father,
and fear not for anything that could happen, which God does to make her
state perfect once more, in order that lambs may feed in that garden, and
not wolves who devour the honour that should belong to God, which they
steal and give to themselves. Comfort you in Christ sweet Jesus; for I
hope that His aid will be near you, plenitude of divine grace, aid and
support divine in the way that I said before. Out of war you will attain
greatest peace; out of persecution, greatest unity; not by human power,
but by holy virtue, you will discomfit those visible demons, wicked men,
and those invisible demons who never sleep around us.

But reflect, sweet father, that you could not do this easily unless you
accomplished the other two things which precede the completion of the
other: that is, your return to Rome and uplifting of the standard of the
most holy Cross. Let not your holy desire fail on account of any scandal
or rebellion of cities which you might see or hear; nay, let the flame of
holy desire be more kindled to wish to do swiftly. Do not delay, then,
your coming. Do not believe the devil, who perceives his own loss, and so
exerts himself to rob you of your possessions in order that you may lose
your love and charity and our coming be hindered. I tell you, father in
Christ Jesus, come swiftly like a gentle lamb. Respond to the Holy Spirit
who calls you. I tell you, Come, come, come, and do not wait for time,
since time does not wait for you. Then you will do like the Lamb Slain
whose place you hold, who without weapons in His hand slew our foes,
coming in gentleness, using only the weapons of the strength of love,
aiming only at care of spiritual things, and restoring grace to man who
had lost it through sin.

Alas, sweet my father, with this sweet hand I pray you, and tell you to
come to discomfit our enemies. On behalf of Christ crucified I tell it
you: refuse to believe the counsels of the devil, who would hinder your
holy and good resolution. Be manly in my sight, and not timorous. Answer
God, who calls you to hold and possess the seat of the glorious Shepherd
St. Peter, whose vicar you have been. And raise the standard of the holy
Cross; for as we were freed by the Cross--so Paul says--thus raising this
standard, which seems to me the refreshment of Christians, we shall be
freed--we from our wars and divisions and many sins, the infidel people
from their infidelity. In this way you will come and attain the
reformation, giving good priests to Holy Church. Fill her heart with the
ardent love that she has lost; for she has been so drained of blood by the
iniquitous men who have devoured her that she is wholly wan. But comfort
you, and come, father, and no longer make to wait the servants of God, who
afflict themselves in desire. And I, poor, miserable woman, can wait no
more; living, I seem to die in my pain, seeing God thus reviled. Do not,
then, hold off from peace because of the circumstance which has occurred
at Bologna, but come; for I tell you that the fierce wolves will put their
heads in your bosom like gentle lambs, and will ask mercy from you,
father. I say no more. I beg you, father, to hear and hark that which Fra
Raimondo will say to you, and the other sons with him, who come in the
Name of Christ crucified and of me; for they are true servants of God and
sons of Holy Church. Pardon, father, my ignorance, and may the love and
grief which make me speak excuse me to your benignity. Give me your
benediction. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus


The last letter tells us that Catherine had sent to the Pope her beloved
Confessor, who was later to become her biographer--Fra Raimondo of Capua.
It is evident that the simple Italian priest and his companions have
become somewhat daunted by the conditions they have encountered at
Avignon; and, indeed, the subtlest temptations and most perplexing
problems that Europe could furnish were doubtless focussed at the Papal
Court. Just what the difficulties were which Raimondo had confided to
Catherine and which called forth this spirited answer, we do not know, but
we can easily imagine their nature. A holy man of considerable learning,
Fra Raimondo was also of mild disposition, much inclined to sigh over
dangers and blench before exposure. Catherine, on more than one occasion,
showed herself the better man of the two. There was a militant strain in
her bright nature; she was really the "Happy Warrior"--

  "Whose powers shed round him in the common strife
  Or mild concerns of ordinary life
  A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
  But who if he be called upon to face
  Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
  Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
  Is happy as a Lover; and attired
  With sudden brightness, like a man inspired;
  And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law
  In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw."

So, in this letter, we find the daughter encouraging the father, with
reflections much in the temper of Browning:

        "Was the trial sore,
  Temptation sharp? Thank God a second time!
  Why come temptations but for man to meet,
  And master, and make crouch beneath his feet,
  And so be pedestalled in triumph!"

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

Reverend 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 you and the other sons clothed in the wedding garment that
covers all our nakedness. That is a protection which does not let the
blows of our adversary the devil pierce our flesh with mortal wound, but
makes us rather strengthened than weakened by every blow of temptation or
molesting of devils or fellow-creatures or our own flesh, rebellious to
the spirit. I say that these blows not only do not hurt us, but they shall
be precious stones and pearls placed on this garment of most burning

Now suppose there should be a soul that did not have to endure many
labours and temptations, from whatever direction and in whatever wise God
may grant them. No virtue would be tested in it; for virtue is tested by
its opposite. How is purity tested and won? Through the contrary--that is,
through the vexations of uncleanliness. For were a man unclean already,
there would be no need for him to be molested by unclean reflections, but
because it is evident that his will is free from all depraved consenting,
and purified from every spot by his holy and true desire to serve his
Creator, therefore the devil, the world, and the flesh molest him. Yes,
everything is driven out by its opposite. See how humility is won through
pride. When a man sees himself molested by that vice of pride, at once he
humbles himself, recognizing himself to be faulty--proud: while had he not
been so molested he would not have known himself so well. When he has
humbled and seen himself, he conceives hatred in such wise that he joys
and exults in every pain and injury that he bears. Such a one is like a
manful knight, who does not avoid blows. Nay, he holds him unworthy of so
great grace, as it seems to him to be, to bear pain, temptations and
vexations for Christ crucified. All is through the hate he has for
himself, and the love he has conceived for virtue.

So you see that we are not to flee nor to grieve in the time of darkness,
since from the darkness light is born. O God, sweet Love, what sweet
doctrine Thou givest, that through the contrary of virtue, virtue is won!
Out of impatience is won patience; for the soul that feels the vice of
impatience becomes patient over the injury received, and is impatient
toward the vice of impatience, and is more hurt because it is hurt than
over anything else. And so out of the very contrary its perfection comes
to be won. It is not aware of this; it finds itself become perfect in many
storms and temptations. In no other wise does one ever arrive at the
harbour of perfection.

Yea, meditate on this: that the soul can never receive nor desire virtue,
unless it has cravings, vexations and temptations to endure with true and
holy patience for the love of Christ crucified. We ought, then, to joy and
exult in the time of conflicts, vexations and shadows, since from them
proceeds such virtue and delight. Oh me, my son given me by Mary that
sweet mother, I do not want you to fall into weariness or confusion
through any vexations that you might feel in your mind; but I want you to
keep that good and holy and true faithful will which I know that God in
His mercy has given you. I know that you would rather die than offend Him
mortally. Yes, I want that out of the shadows should issue knowledge of
yourself, free from confusion; out of your goodwill should issue knowledge
of the infinite goodness and unspeakable charity of God; and in this
knowledge may our soul abide and fatten. Reflect that through love He
keeps your will good, and does not let it run by its own consent or
pleasure after the suggestions of the devil. And so, through love, He has
permitted to you and me and His other servants, the many vexations and
deceits of the devil and fellow-creatures and our own flesh, solely in
order that we might rise from negligence, and reach perfect zeal, true
humility and most ardent charity: humility which comes from knowledge of
self, and charity which comes from knowledge of the goodness of God. There
is the soul inspired and consumed by love.

Joy, father, and exult; and comfort you, without any servile fear, and
fear not, for any thing that you should see happen. But comfort you: for
perfection is near you. And answer the devil saying: "That power against
you did not work through me, since it was not in me; it works through
grace of the infinite pity and mercy of God." Yes, through Christ
crucified you shall be able to do all things. Carry on all your works with
living faith; and do not wonder should you see some contrary circumstance
present itself which seemed to oppose your work. Comfort you, comfort you,
because the Sweet Primal Truth has promised to fulfil your and my desire
for you. Slay yourself through your burning desire, with the Lamb that was
slain; rest you upon the Cross with Christ crucified. Rejoice in Christ
crucified; rejoice in pains; steep yourself in shames for Christ
crucified; graft your heart and your affection into the tree of the most
holy Cross with Christ crucified, and make in His wounds your habitation.
And pardon me, cause and instrument that I am of your every pain and
imperfection; for were I an instrument of virtue, you and others would
breathe the fragrance of virtue. And I do not say these words because I
want you to suffer, for your suffering would be mine; but that you may
have compassion, you and the other sons, upon my miseries. I hope and
firmly hold, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that He will put limit
and end to all those things that are apart from the will of God.

Reflect that I, poor miserable woman, abide in the body, and find me
through desire continually away from the body. Oh me, sweet and good
Jesus! I die and cannot die, my heart breaks and cannot break, from the
desire that I have of the renewal of Holy Church, for the honour of God
and the salvation of every creature; and to see you and the others arrayed
in purity, burned and consumed in His most ardent charity!

Tell Christ on earth not to make me wait longer; and when I shall see him,
I shall sing with Simeon, that sweet old man: "Nunc dimittis servum tuum,
Domine, secundum verbum tuum, in pace." I say no more; for did I follow my
wish, I should begin again at once. Make me see and feel you bound and
fastened into Christ sweet Jesus, in such wise that nor demon nor creature
can ever separate you from so sweet a bond. Love, love, love one another.
Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


From the comparative quiet of her home Catherine looks off to far
horizons, surveying the religious and political world. She can encourage
Fra Raimondo, yet the sword has pierced her heart. This letter is full of
sickening recognition of evils that hold grave prevision of worse
disaster. Even now we see clearly formed in Catherine's mind that strange
sense of responsibility for the sins of her time, so illogical to the
natural, so inevitable to the spiritual vision. "I believe that I am the
wretched woman who is the cause of so great evils!" Thus she cries, not in
rhetorical figure of speech, but in deep conviction. It is a conviction
destined to grow more intense till it leads direct to her spiritual

Out of her pain she turns to the simple women, her daughters and
companions in faith, calling on them to join her in the life of
intercession and expiation. Then her thought fastens on one little lamb of
the flock--one who had strayed and been rescued, and was in danger of
straying again; and in care for this one soul needing shelter and strength
she finds comfort. Catherine's sense of proportion is that of the
spiritual man so finely presented by Browning in the person of Lazarus.
Let Andrea be saved, and the corruption of the Church will seem less
painful! She can say as her last word, "Sweet daughters, now is the time
for toils, which must be our consolations in Christ crucified."

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

Dearest daughters 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 established in true patience and deep humility, so that
you may follow the sweet and Spotless Lamb, for you could not follow Him
in other wise. Now is the time, my daughters, to show if we have virtue,
and if you are daughters or not. It behoves you to bear with patience the
persecutions and detractions, slanders and criticisms of your fellow-
creatures, with true humility, and not with annoyance or impatience; nor
must you lift up your head in pride against any person whatever. Know well
that this is the teaching which has been given us, that it behoves us to
receive on the Cross the food of the honour of God and the salvation of
souls, with holy and true patience. Ah me, sweetest daughters, I summon
you on behalf of the Sweet Primal Truth to awaken from the sleep of
negligence and selfish love of yourselves, and to offer humble and
continual prayers, with many vigils, and with knowledge of yourselves,
because the world is perishing through the crowding multitude of
iniquities, and the irreverence shown to the sweet Bride of Christ. Well,
then, let us give honour to God, and our toils to our neighbour. Ah, me,
do not be willing, you or the other servants of God, that our life should
end otherwise than in mourning and in sighs, for by no other means can be
appeased the wrath of God, which is evidently falling upon us.

Ah, me, misfortunate! My daughters, I believe that I am the wretched woman
who is the cause of so many evils, on account of the great ingratitude and
other faults which I have committed toward my Creator. Ah, me! ah, me! Who
is God, who is wronged by His creatures? He is Highest and eternal
Goodness, who in His love created man in His image and likeness, and re-
created him by grace, after his sin, in the Blood of the immaculate and
enamoured Lamb, His Only-Begotten Son. And who is mercenary and ignorant
man, who wrongs his Creator? We are those who are not ourselves by
ourselves, save in so far as we are made by God, but by ourselves we are
full of every wretchedness. It seems as if people sought nothing except in
what way they could wrong God and their fellow-creatures, in contempt of
the Creator. We see with our wretched eyes that Blood which has given us
life persecuted in the holy Church of God. Then let our hearts break in
torment and grieving desire; let life stay in our body no more, but let us
rather die than behold God so reviled. I die in life, and demand death
from my Creator and cannot have it. Better were it for me to die than to
live, instead of beholding such disaster as has befallen and is to befall
the Christian people.

Let us draw the weapons of holy prayer, for other help I see not. That
time of persecution has come upon the servants of God when they must hide
in the caves of knowledge of themselves and of God, craving His mercy
through the merits of the Blood of His Son. I will say no more, for if I
did according to my choice, my daughters, I should never rest until God
removed me from this life.

To thee now I say, Andrea, that he who begins only never receives the
crown of glory, but he who perseveres till death. O daughter mine, thou
hast begun to put thy hand to the plough of virtue, leaving the parbreak
of mortal sin; it behoves thee, then, to persevere, to receive the reward
of thy labour, which thy soul endures, choosing to bridle its youth, that
it may not run to be a member of the devil. Ah me, my daughter! And hast
thou not reflection that thou wast once a member of the devil, sleeping in
the filth of impurity, and that God by His mercy drew thee from that great
misery in which thou wast, thy soul and thy body? It does not befit thee,
then, to be ungrateful nor forgetful, for evil would befall thee, and the
devil would come back with seven companions stronger than at first. Then
thou shalt show the grace thou hast received by being grateful and
mindful, when thou shalt be strong in battles with the devil, the world,
and thy flesh, which vexes thee; thou must be persevering in virtue.
Cling, my daughter, if thou wilt escape such vexations, to the Tree of the
most holy Cross, in bodily abstinence, in vigil and in prayer, bathing
thee by holy desire in the blood of Christ crucified. So thou shalt attain
the life of grace, and do the will of God, and fulfil my desire, which
longs to have thee a true servant of Christ crucified. I beg thee
therefore not to be a child any longer, and to choose for Bridegroom
Christ crucified, who has bought thee with His Blood. If thou yet wishest
the life of the world, it befits thee to wait long enough so that the way
can be found of giving it to thee in a way that shall be for the honour of
God and for thy good. Be subject and obedient till death, and do not
contradict the will of Catarina and Giovanna, who I know will never
counsel thee or tell thee anything that is not for the honour of God and
the salvation of thy soul and body. If thou dost not behave so, thou wilt
displease me very much, and do thyself little good. I hope in the goodness
of God that thou wilt so act that He will be honoured, and thou shalt have
thy reward and give me great consolation.

I tell thee, Catarina and Giovanna, to work till death for the honour of
God and her salvation. Sweet daughters, now is the time for toils, which
must be our consolations in Christ crucified. I say no more. Remain in the
holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Catherine's beloved sister Daniella is in trouble. As happened to many
others leading the dedicated life in the middle ages, she has carried her
scorn of the body past all bounds of reason, has fallen ill and been
obliged to care for her poor physical nature. Catherine, who is
perpetually trying to raise Fra Raimondo and others in her spiritual
family to more heroic heights, recognizes the different needs of this
over-eager soul. She writes her friend, therefore, a long and tender
letter, one of the most elaborate among her many analyses of the means
that lead to perfection, urging upon her discretion and a sense of
proportion in spiritual things. It is noteworthy that Catherine's
exhortations to impassioned sacrifice are almost always delivered in
connection with the claims of active service, to the Church or fellow-men.
When writing to "contemplatives" absorbed in the ecstasies and trials of
the interior life, her habitual warnings are against excess, her constant
plea, as here, for a perception of relative values. She ranks, herself,
alike as a great "contemplative" and as a great woman of action: both
phases of experience relate to something deeper. Her soul was athirst for
the Infinite, and well she knew that neither in deeds nor in ascetic
ecstasy, but only in "holy desire," in the life of ceaseless aspiration
"which prays for ever in the presence of God," can our mortality attain to
untrammelled union with Infinite Being.

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

Dearest daughter and sister 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 in thee the holy virtue of discretion, which it
is necessary for us to have if we wish to be saved. Why is it so
necessary? Because it proceeds from the knowledge of ourselves and of God;
in this house its roots are planted. It is really an offspring of charity,
which, properly speaking, is discretion--an illumined knowledge which the
soul has, as I said, of God and itself. The chief thing it does is this:
having seen, in a reasonable light, what it ought to render and to whom,
it renders this with perfect discretion at once. So it renders glory to
God and praise to His Name; the soul achieves all its works by this light
and to this end. It renders to God His due of honour--not like an
indiscreet robber, who wants to give honour to himself, and, seeking his
own honour and pleasure, does not mind insulting God and harming his
neighbour. When the roots of inclination in the soul are rotted by
indiscretion, all its works, relating to others or to itself, are rotten.
All relating to others, I say: for it imposes burdens indiscreetly, and
lays down the law to other people, seculars or spiritual, or of whatever
rank they may be. If such a person admonishes or advises, he does it
indiscreetly, and wants to load everyone else with the burden which he
carries himself. The discreet soul, that sees its own need and that of
others reasonably, does just the opposite. When it has rendered to God His
due of honour, it gives its own due to itself--that is, hatred of sin and
of its own fleshliness. What is the reason? The love of virtue, which it
loves in itself. It renders its due to the neighbour with the same light
as to itself, and therefore I said, in relation to itself and to others.
So it gives goodwill to its neighbour, as it is bound to do, loving virtue
in him and hating sin. It loves him as a being created by the Highest
Eternal Father. And it gives him loving charity more or less perfectly,
according as it has this in itself. Yes, this is the principal result
which the virtue of discretion achieves in the soul: it has seen clearly
what due it ought to render, and to whom.

These are three chief branches of that glorious discretion which springs
from the tree of charity. From this tree spring infinite fruits, all
mellow and very sweet, which nourish the soul in the life of grace, when
it plucks them with the hand of free will, and eats them with holy eager
desire. Whatever condition a person may be in, he tastes these fruits, if
he has the light of discretion, in diverse ways, according to his state.
He who is placed in the world, and has this light, gathers the fruit of
obedience to the commands of God, and distaste for the world, of which he
divests himself in mind, although he may be clothed with it in fact. If he
has children, he plucks the fruit of the fear of God, and nourishes them
with this holy fear. If he is a nobleman, he plucks the fruit of justice,
discreetly wishing to render to everyone his due--so he punishes the
unjust man rigorously, and rewards the just, tasting the fruit of reason,
and for no flatteries or servile fear deserts this way. If he is a
subject, he gathers the fruit of obedience and reverence toward his lord,
avoiding any cause or means by which he might offend him. Had he not seen
these things by the light, he would not have avoided them. If men are
monks or prelates, they get from the tree the sweet and pleasing fruit of
observing their Rule, enduring one another's faults, embracing shames and
annoyances, placing on their shoulders the yoke of obedience. The prelate
takes desire for the honour of God and the salvation of souls, seeking to
win them by doctrine and exemplary life. In what different ways and by
what different people these fruits are gathered! It would take too long to
tell them the tongue could not express it.

But let us see, dearest daughter (now we will speak in particular, and so
we shall be speaking in general too), what rule that virtue of discretion
imposes on the soul. That rule seems to me to apply both to the soul and
body of people who wish to live spiritually, in deed and thought. To be
sure, it regulates every person in his rank and place: but let us now talk
to ourselves. The first rule it gives to the soul is that we have
mentioned--to render honour to God, goodwill to one's neighbour, and to
oneself, hatred of sin and of one's own fleshliness. It regulates this
charity toward the neighbour; for it is not willing to sacrifice the soul
to him, since, in order to do him good or pleasure, it is not willing to
offend God; but it flees from guilt discreetly, yet holds its body ready
for every pain and torment, even to death, to rescue a soul, and as many
souls as it can, from the hands of the devil. Also, it is ready to give up
all its temporal possessions to help and rescue the body of its neighbour.
Charity does this, when enlightened with discretion; for discretion should
regulate one's charity to one's neighbour. The indiscreet man does just
the contrary, who does not mind offending God, or sacrificing his soul, to
serve or please his neighbour--sometimes by keeping him company in wicked
places, sometimes by bearing false witness, or in many other ways, as
happens every day. This is the rule of indiscretion, which proceeds from
pride and perverse self-love and the blindness of not having known oneself
or God.

And when measure and rule have been found in regard to charity to the
neighbour, discretion regulates also the matter which keeps the soul in
that charity, and makes it grow--that is, in faithful, humble, and
continual prayer; robing the soul in the cloak of desire for virtue, that
it may not be injured by lukewarmness, negligence, or self-love, spiritual
or temporal: therefore it inspires the soul with this desire for virtue,
that its desire may not be placed on anything by which it might be

Also, it rules and orders the creature physically, in this way: the soul
which is prepared to wish for God makes its beginning as we have said; but
because it has the vessel of its body, enlightened discretion must impose
a rule on this, as it has done upon the soul, since the body ought to be a
means for the increase of virtue. The rule withdraws it from the
indulgences and luxuries of the world, and the conversation of worldlings;
gives it conversation with the servants of God; takes it from dissolute
places, and keeps it in places that stimulate devotion. It imposes
restraint on all the members of the body, that they be modest and
temperate: let the eye not look where it should not, but hold before
itself earth, and heaven; let the tongue flee idle and vain speech, and be
disciplined to proclaim the word of God for the salvation of the
neighbour, and to confess its sins: let the ear flee agreeable,
flattering, dissolute words, and any words of detraction that might be
said to it; and let it hearken for the word of God, and the need of the
neighbour, willingly listening to his necessity. So let the hand be swift
in touching and working, and the feet in going: to all, discretion gives a
rule. And that the perverse law of the flesh that fights against the
spirit may not throw these tools into disorder, it imposes a rule upon the
body, mortifying it with vigil, fast, and the other exercises which are
all meant to bridle our body.

But note, that all this is done, not indiscreetly, but with enlightened
discretion. How is this shown? In this: that the soul does not place its
chief desire in any act of penance. That it may not fall into such a fault
as to take penance for its chief desire, enlightened discretion takes
pains to robe the soul in the desire for virtue. Penance to be sure must
be used as a tool, in due times and places, as need may be. If the flesh,
being too strong, kicks against the spirit, penance takes the rod of
discipline, and fast, and the cilice of many buds, and mighty vigils; and
places burdens enough on the flesh, that it may be more subdued. But if
the body is weak, fallen into illness, the rule of discretion does not
approve of such a method. Nay, not only should fasting be abandoned, but
flesh be eaten; if once a day is not enough, then four times. If one
cannot stand up, let him stay on his bed; if he cannot kneel, let him sit
or lie down, as he needs. This discretion demands. Therefore it insists
that penance be treated as a means and not as a chief desire.

Dost thou know why it must not be chief? That the soul may not serve God
with a thing that can be taken from it and that is finite: but with holy
desire, which is infinite, through its union with the infinite desire of
God; and with the virtues which neither devil nor fellow-creature nor
weakness can take from us, unless we choose. Herein must we make our
foundation, and not in penance. Nay, in weakness the virtue of patience
may be tested; in vexing conflicts with devils, fortitude and long
perseverance; and in adversities suffered from our fellow-beings,
humility, patience, and charity. So as to all other virtues--God lets them
be tested by many contraries, but never taken from us, unless we choose.
Herein must we make our foundation, and not in penance. The soul cannot
have two foundations: either the one or the other must be overthrown. Let
the thing which is not the chief, be used as a means. If I find my chief
principle in bodily penance, I build the city of my soul upon the sand, so
that each little breeze throws it to the earth, and no building can be
erected on it. But if I build upon the virtues, founded upon the Living
Stone, Christ sweet Jesus, there is no building so great that it will not
stand firmly, nor wind so contrary that it can ever blow it down.

From these and many other difficulties that arise, it has not been meant
that penance should be used otherwise than as a means. I have already seen
many penitents who have been neither patient nor obedient, because they
have studied to kill their bodies, but not their wills. The rule of
indiscretion has wrought this. Dost thou know the result? All their
consolations and desires centre in carrying out their penance to suit
themselves, and not to suit anyone else. Therein they nourish their will.
While they can fulfil their penance, they have consolation and gladness,
and seem to themselves full of God, as if they had accomplished
everything; and they do not perceive that they fall into a mere personal
estimate, and into a judicial attitude. For if all people do not walk in
the same way, they seem to them in a state of damnation, an imperfect
state. They indiscreetly want to measure all bodies by one same measure,
by that with which they measure themselves. And if one wants to withdraw
them from this, either to break their will or from some necessity of
theirs, they hold their will harder than a diamond; living in such wise,
that at the time of test by a temptation or injury, they find themselves,
from indulgence in this wrong will, weaker than straw.

Indiscretion taught them that penance bridled wrath, impatience, and the
other sinful impulses that come into the heart; it is not so. This
glorious light teaches thee that thou shalt kill sin in thy soul, and draw
out its roots, with hatred and displeasure against thyself, loading thy
fault with rebuke, with the consideration of who God is whom thou
wrongest, and who thou art who wrongest Him, with the memory of death and
the longing for virtue. Penance cuts off, yet thou wilt always find the
root in thee, ready to sprout again; but virtue pulls up. Earth in which
sins have been planted is always ready to receive them again if self-will
puts them there with free choice; not otherwise, when once the root is
pulled up.

It may happen that a sick body is obliged perforce to give up its habits
of life; then it falls at once into weariness and confusion of mind,
deprived of all gladness: it thinks itself condemned and confounded, and
finds no sweetness in prayer, such as it seemed to have in the time of its
penance. And whither is this sweetness gone? Lost, with the personal will
on which it was built! This cannot be gratified, and so the soul suffers.
And why art thou fallen into such confusion and almost despair? And where
is the hope which thou hadst in the Kingdom of God? All lost, by means of
that very penance through which the soul hoped to have eternal life!
Capable of this no more, it thinks itself deprived of the other.

These are the fruits of indiscretion. Had the soul the light of
discretion, it would see that nothing but being without virtues deprived
it of God; and it has eternal life through virtue, by the Blood of Christ.
Then let us rise above all imperfection, and set our heart, as I said, on
true virtues, which are of such joy and gladsomeness as tongue could not
tell. There is none who can give pain to the soul founded on virtue, or
take from it the hope of heaven; for it has put its self-will to death in
spiritual things as in temporal, and its affections are not set on
penance, or private consolations or revelations, but on endurance through
Christ crucified and the love of virtue. So it is patient, faithful, hopes
in God and not in itself or its works: is humble and obedient, believing
others rather than itself, because it does not presume. It stretches wide
the arms of mercy, and thereby drives forth confusion of mind. In shadows
and conflicts it uplifts the light of faith, labouring manfully, with true
and profound humility; and in gladness it enters into itself, that the
heart may not fall into vain glee. It is strong and persevering, because
it has put to death its own will, which made it weak and inconstant. All
times are the right time for it; all places the right place. If it is in a
season of penance, this is a time of gladness and consolation to it, using
penance as a means; and if, by necessity or obedience, penance has to be
abandoned, it rejoices; because its chief foundation, in the love of
virtue, cannot be and is not taken from it; and because it sees the
contradiction of its own will, which it has been enlightened to perceive
must always be resisted with great diligence and zeal.

It finds prayer in every place, for it bears ever with it the place
wherein God lives by grace, and where we ought to pray--that is, the house
of our soul wherein holy desire prays constantly. This desire is uplifted
by the light of the mind to be reflected in itself and in the immeasurable
flame of divine love, which it finds in the Blood shed for us, which by
largess of love it finds in the vase of the soul. This it cares and should
care to know, that it may drink deep of the Blood, and therein consume its
self-will--and not simply to accomplish the count of many paternosters. So
we shall make our prayer continuous and faithful; because in the fire of
His love we know that He is powerful to give us what we ask. He is Highest
Wisdom, who knows how to give and discern what we need; He is a most
piteous and gracious Father, who wishes to give us more than we desire,
and more than we know how to ask for our need. The soul is humble, for it
has recognized its own defects and that in itself it is not. This is the
kind of prayer through which we attain virtue, and preserve in our souls
the longing for it.

What is the beginning of so great good? Discretion, the daughter of
charity, as I said. And it presents straightway to its neighbour the good
which it has itself. So it seeks to present to its fellow-creature the
foundation it has found, and the love and the teaching it has received,
and shows these by example of life and doctrine, advising when it sees
need or when advice were asked of it. It comforts the soul of its
neighbour, and does not confound him by leading him into despair when he
has fallen into some fault; but tenderly it makes itself ill with that
soul, giving him what healing it can, and enlarging in him hope in the
Blood of Christ crucified.

The virtue of discretion gives this and infinitely many other fruits to
the neighbour. Then, since it is so useful and necessary, dearest and most
beloved daughter and sister mine in Christ sweet Jesus, I summon thee and
me to do what in past time I confess not to have done with that perfection
which I should. It has not happened to thee as to me, to have been and to
be very faulty, or over-lax and easy-going in my life, instead of strict,
through my fault; but thou, as one who has wished to subdue her youthful
body that it be not rebel to the soul, hast chosen a life so extremely
strict that apparently it is out of all bounds of discretion; in so much
that it seems to me that indiscretion is trying to make thee feel some of
its results, and is quickening thy self-will in this. And now that thou
art leaving what thou art accustomed to do, the devil apparently is trying
to make it seem to thee that thou art damned. I am very much distressed at
this, and I believe that it is a great offence against God. Therefore I
will and I beg thee that our beginning and foundation be in the love of
virtue, as I said. Kill thy self-will, and do what thou art made to do;
pay attention rather to how things look to others than to thyself. Thou
dost feel thy body weak and ill; take every day the food that is needed to
restore nature. And if thy illness and weakness are relieved, undertake a
regular life in moderation, and not intemperately. Do not consent to let
the little good of penance hinder the greater; nor array thyself therein
as thy chief affection--for thou wouldst find thyself deceived: but wish
that we may haste in sincerity upon the beaten road of virtue, and that we
may guide others on this same road, breaking and shattering our own wills.
If we have the virtue of discretion in us, we shall do it; otherwise, not.

Therefore I said that I desired to see in thee the holy virtue of
discretion. I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God.
Forgive me should I have talked too presumptuously; the love of thy
salvation, through the honour of God, is my reason. Sweet Jesus, Jesus




Catherine's interest in public affairs is rising and widening. This letter
marks an inner crisis. Her thoughts and deeds have, as we have seen, been
already busied for some time with the dissension between the Pope and his
rebellious Tuscan people: now the hour has come when she is to feel
herself solemnly dedicated, by a divine command, to the great task of
reconciliation. We overhear her, as it were, thinking out in her Master's
presence and with His aid the deepest questions which the situation
suggests: and as we listen to that colloquy, so natural, so sweetly
familiar, so deeply reverent, we feel that no problems, however sorrowful
and perplexing, could be hopeless there. From communion with her Lord, she
went forth strong and reassured into the stormy action of her time. Christ
Himself, so she tells us, placed the Cross upon her shoulder and the olive
in her hand, changed her mourning into a high and rapturous hope, and bade
her go, strong in the faith, to bear His message of joy "to one and the
other people." Thus she should be shown in art--Cross-bearer like her
Lord, and holding to the world the sign of reconciliation. Thus did she
start upon the Via Dolorosa of the peace-maker; from now on we shall
follow her in her letters, as she treads that way of sorrows which was
also the way of life.

The experience here described fell on the first of April, 1376. Early in
May, the Florentines, knowing of her holy fame, sent for her to come to
their city and give them counsel. For to defy the Vicar of Christ was a
fearsome thing, and many hearts were uneasy in the rebellious town.

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

Dearest my sons in Christ Jesus. I your poor mother have longed
passionately to see your hearts and affections nailed to the Cross, held
together by the bond which grafted God into man and man into God. So my
soul longs to see your affections grafted into the Incarnate Word Christ
Jesus, in such wise that nor demons nor creatures can divide you. For if
you are held and enkindled by sweet Jesus, I do not fear that all the
devils of hell with all their wiles can separate you from so sweet love
and union. So I wish, because there is mighty need, that you should never
cease from throwing fuel on the fire of holy desire--the fuel of the
knowledge of yourselves. For that is the fuel which feeds the fire of
divine charity: charity which is won by knowledge of the inestimable love
of God, and then unites the soul with its neighbour. And the more material
one gives to the flame--that is, the more fuel of self-knowledge--the more
the warmth of the love of Christ and one's neighbour increases. Abide,
then, hidden in the knowledge of yourselves, and do not live
superficially, lest Devil Malatasca catch you with many illusions and
reflections against one another: this he would do to take from you your
union in divine charity. So I will and command you that the one be subject
to the other, and each bear the faults of the other; learning from the
Sweet Primal Truth, who chose to be the least of men, and humbly bore all
our faults and iniquities. So I will that you do, dearest sons; love,
love, love one another. And joy and exult, for the summer-tide draws near.

For the first of April, especially in the night, God opened His secrets,
showing His marvellous things in such a wise that my soul did not seem to
be in the body, and received such joy and plenitude as the tongue does not
suffice to tell. He explained and made clear part by part the mystery of
the persecution which Holy Church is now enduring, and of her renewal and
exaltation, which shall be in time to come: saying that the present crisis
is permitted to restore her to her true condition. The Sweet Primal Truth
quoted two words which are in the Holy Gospel--"It must needs be that
offences come into the world": and then added: "But woe to him by whom the
offence cometh." As if He said: "I permit this time of persecution, to
uproot the thorns, with which My bride is wholly choked; but I do not
permit the evil thoughts of men. Dost thou know what I do? I am doing as I
did when I was in the world, when I made the scourge of cords, and drove
out those who sold and bought in the Temple, not choosing that the House
of God should be made a den of thieves. So I tell thee that I am doing
now. For I have made a scourge out of human beings, and with that scourge
I drive out the impure traffickers, greedy, avaricious, and swollen with
pride, who buy and sell the gifts of the Holy Spirit." Yes, He was driving
them forth with the scourge of the persecutions of their fellow-beings--
that is, by force of tribulation and persecution He put an end to their
disorderly and immodest living.

And, the fire growing in me, I gazed and saw the Christian people and the
infidel enter into the side of Christ crucified; and I passed through the
midst of them, by my loving and longing desire, and entered with them into
Christ Sweet Jesus, accompanied by my father St. Dominic, and John the
Single, with all my sons together. Then He placed the Cross on my shoulder
and the olive in my hand, almost as if I had asked for them, and said that
thus I should bear them, to the one and to the other people. And He said
to me: "Tell them, I bring you tidings of great joy." Then my soul became
more full; it was lost to itself among the true believers who feed upon
the Divine Substance, by the uniting force and longing of love. And so
great was the delight of my soul, that it no longer realized its past
affliction from seeing God wronged; nay! I said: "O blessed and fortunate
wrong!" Then sweet Jesus smiled, and said: "Is sin fortunate, which is
nothing at all? Dost thou know what St. Gregory meant when he said,
'Blessed and fortunate fault'? What element is it that thou holdest as
fortunate and blessed, and that Gregory calls so?" I replied as He made me
reply, and said: "I see well, sweet my Lord, and well I know, that sin is
not worthy of good fortune, and is not fortunate nor blessed in itself;
but the fruit may be, which comes from sin. It seems to me that Gregory
meant this: that through the sin of Adam, God gave us the Word, His only-
begotten Son, and the Word gave His Blood, so that, giving His life, He
restored life with a great fire of love. So, then, sin is fortunate, not
through the sin itself, but from the fruit and the gift we receive by that
sin." Now, so it is. Thus from the wrong done by the wicked Christians who
persecute the Bride of Christ, spring her exaltation, her light, and the
fragrance of her virtues. This was so sweet that there seemed no
comparison between the wrong, and the unsearchable goodness and benignity
of God, which He showed toward His Bride. Then I rejoiced and exulted, and
was so arrayed in assurance of the time to come that I seemed to possess
and taste it. And I said then with Simeon: "Nunc dimittis servum tuum,
Domine, secundum verbum tuum, in pace." So many mysteries were wrought in
me as tongue cannot suffice to tell nor heart to think nor eye to see.

Now, what tongue could suffice to tell the wonderful things of God? Not
mine, poor wretch that I am. Therefore I choose to keep silence, and to
give me wholly to seeking the honour of God and the salvation of souls and
the renewal and exaltation of Holy Church, and through grace and power of
the Holy Spirit to persevere even unto death. With this desire I called
our Christ on earth, and I will call him, with great love and compassion,
and you, father, and all my dear sons; I made and was granted your
petition. Rejoice, then, rejoice and exult. O sweet God our Love, fulfil
quickly the desires of thy servants! I will say no more--and I have said
nothing. I die, delayed in my desires. Have compassion on me. Pray the
divine Goodness and Christ on earth that there be no more loitering.
Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Drown you in the Blood of
Christ crucified; and on no account faint, but rather take comfort.
Rejoice, rejoice, in your sweet labours. Love, love, love one another.
Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


The conflicts of the cloister and of the court are not dissimilar; and the
first, to Catherine, are as real and significant as the second. She writes
in a familiar strain to Sister Bartolomea. The truths on which she is
insisting have been reiterated in every age by guides to the spiritual
life. But whenever, as here, they come from the depths of personal
experience, they possess peculiar freshness and force; and, indeed, this
Colloquy of the Saint of Siena with her Lord has become a _locus
classicus_ in the literature of the interior life.

One likes to note, in passing, how frequently Catherine urges frail,
cloistered women, sheltered from all the din and storm of outer life, to
"manfulness." "Virile," "virilmente"--they are among her especial words.
And, indeed, they well befit her own spirit, singularly vigorous and
fearless for a woman whose feminine sensitiveness is evident in every
letter she writes.

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

Dearest daughter in Christ Jesus. I Catherine, servant and slave of the
servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood: with desire
to see you a true bride, consecrated to the eternal Bridegroom. It belongs
to a bride to make her will one with that of her bridegroom; she cannot
will more than he wills, and seems unable to think of anything but him.
Now do you so think, daughter mine, for you, who are a bride of Christ
crucified, ought not to think or will anything apart from Him--that is,
not to consent to any other thoughts. That thoughts should not come, this
I do not tell thee--because neither thou nor any created being couldst
prevent them. For the devil never sleeps; and God permits this to make His
bride reach perfect zeal and grow in virtue. This is the reason why God
sometimes permits the mind to remain sterile and gloomy, and beset by many
perverse cogitations, so that it seems unable to think of God, and can
hardly remember His Name.

Beware, when thou mayest feel this in thyself, lest thou fall into
weariness or bewildered confusion, and do not give up thy exercises nor
the act of praying, because the devil may say to thee: "How does this
prayer uplift thee, since thou dost not offer it with any feeling or
desire? It would be better for thee not to make it." Yet do not give up,
nor fall for this into confusion, but reply manfully: "I would rather
exert myself for Christ crucified, feeling pain, gloom and inward
conflicts, than not exert myself and feel repose." And reflect, that this
is the state of the perfect; if it were possible for them to escape Hell,
and have joy in this life and joy eternal beside, they do not want it,
because they delight so greatly in conforming themselves to Christ
crucified; nay, they want to live rather by the way of the Cross and pain,
than without pain. Now what greater joy can the bride have than to be
conformed to her bridegroom, and clothed with like raiment? So, since
Christ crucified in His life chose naught but the Cross and pain, and
clothed Him in this raiment, His bride holds herself blessed when she is
clothed in this same raiment; and because she sees that the Bridegroom has
loved her so beyond measure, she loves and receives Him with such love and
desire as no tongue can suffice to tell. Therefore the Highest and Eternal
Goodness, to make her attain most perfect love and possess humility,
permits her many conflicts and a dry mind, that the creature may know
itself and see that it is not. For were it anything, it would free itself
from pain when it chose, but being naught it cannot. So, knowing itself,
it is humbled in its non-existence, and knows the goodness of God, which,
through grace, has given it being, and every grace that is founded upon

But thou wilt say to me: "When I have so much pain, and suffer so many
conflicts and such gloom, I can see nothing but confusion; and it does not
seem as if I could take any hope, I see myself so wretched." I reply to
thee, my daughter, that if thou shalt seek, thou shalt find God in thy
goodwill. Granted that thou feel many conflicts, do thou not therefore
feel thy will deprived of wishing God. Nay, this is the reason why the
soul mourns and suffers, because it fears to offend God. It ought then to
joy and exult, and not to fall into confusion through its conflicts,
seeing that God keeps its will good, and gives it hatred of mortal sin.

I remember that I heard this said once to a servant of God, and it was
said to her by the Sweet Primal Truth, when she was abiding in very great
pain and temptation, and among other things, felt the greatest confusion,
in so much that the devil said: "What wilt thou do? for all the time of
thy life thou shalt abide in these pains, and then thou shalt have hell."
She then answered with manly heart, and without any fear, and with holy
hatred of herself, saying: "I do not avoid pains, for I have chosen pains
for my refreshment. And if at the end He should give me hell, I will not
therefore abandon serving my Creator. For I am she who am worthy of
abiding in hell, because I wronged the Sweet Primal Truth; so, did He give
me hell, He would do me no wrong, since I am His." Then our Saviour, in
this sweet and true humility, scattered the shadows and torments of the
devil, as it happens when the cloud passes that the sun remains; and
suddenly came the Presence of Our Saviour. Thence she melted into a river
of tears, and said in a sweet glow of love: "O sweet and good Jesus, where
wast thou when my soul was in such affliction?" Sweet Jesus, the Spotless
Lamb, replied: "I was beside thee. For I move not, and never leave My
creature, unless the creature leave Me through mortal sin." And that woman
abode in sweet converse with Him, and said: "If Thou wast with me, how did
I not feel Thee? How can it be that being by the fire, I should not feel
the heat? And I felt nothing but freezing cold, sadness, and bitterness,
and seemed to myself full of mortal sins." He replied sweetly, and said:
"Dost thou wish Me to show thee, daughter mine, how in those conflicts
thou didst not fall into mortal sin, and how I was beside thee? Tell me,
what is it that makes sin mortal? Only the will. For sin and virtue
consist in the consent of the will; there is no sin nor virtue, unless
voluntarily wrought. This will was not in thee; for had it been, thou
wouldst have taken joy and delight in the suggestions of the devil; but
since the will was not there, thou didst grieve over them, and suffer for
fear of doing wrong. So thou seest that sin and virtue consist in choice--
wherefore I tell thee that thou shouldst not, on account of these
conflicts, fall into disordered confusion. But I will that from this
darkness thou derive the light of self-knowledge, in which thou mayest
gain the virtue of humility, and joy and exult in a good will, knowing
that then I abide in thee secretly. The will is a sign to thee that I am
there; for hadst thou an evil will, I should not be in thee by grace. But
knowest thou how I thus abide in thee? In the same way in which I hung
upon the wood of the Cross. And I take the same way with you that my
Father took with Me. Reflect, daughter mine, that upon the Cross I was
blessed and was sorrowful; blessed I was by the union of the divine and
the human nature, and nevertheless the flesh endured pain, because the
Eternal Father withdrew His power to Himself, letting Me suffer; but He
did not withdraw the union in which He was for ever united with Me.
Reflect that in this way I abide in the soul; for often I withdraw to
myself feeling, but do not withdraw grace, since grace is never lost,
except by mortal sin, as I said. But knowest thou why I do this? Only to
make the soul reach true perfection. Thou knowest that the soul cannot be
perfect unless borne on these two wings, humility and charity. Humility is
won through the knowledge of itself, into which it enters in the time of
darkness; and charity is won by seeing that I, through love, have kept its
will holy and good. Wherefore, I tell thee, that the wise soul, seeing
that from this experience proceeds such profit, reassures itself (and for
no other cause do I permit the devil to give you temptations), and will
hold this time dearer than any other. Now I have told thee the way I take.
And reflect, that such experience is very necessary to your salvation; for
if the soul were not sometimes pressed by many temptations, it would fall
into very great negligence, and would lose the exercise of continual
desire and prayer. Because in the hour of battle it is more alert, through
fear of its foes, and provisions the rock of its soul, having recourse to
Me who am its Fortitude. But this is not the intention of the devil--for
I permit him to tempt you that he may make you attain virtue, though he,
on his part, tempts you to make you attain despair. Reflect that the devil
will tempt a person who is dedicated to My service, not because he
believes that the man may actually fall into that sin, for he sees at once
that he would choose death rather than actually to do wrong. But what does
he do? He exerts himself to make the man fall into confusion, saying: 'No
good is of any use to you, on account of these thoughts and impulses that
come to you.' Now thou seest how great is the malice of the devil; for,
not being able to conquer in the first battle, he often conquers in the
second, under guise of virtue. Wherefore I do not want thee ever to follow
his malicious will; but I want thee to assume My will, as I have told
thee. This is the rule which I give thee, and which I wish thee to teach
others when there is need."

Now thus I tell thee, dearest my daughter, that I want thee to do. And be
for me a mirror of virtue, following the footsteps of Christ crucified.
Bathe thee in the Blood of Christ crucified, and so live, as is my will,
that thou nor seek nor will aught but the Crucified, like a true bride,
bought with the Blood of Christ crucified. Well seest thou that thou art a
bride, and that He has wedded thee and every creature, not with a ring of
silver, but with the ring of His Flesh. O depth and height of Love
unspeakable, how didst Thou love this Bride, the human race! O Life
through which all things do live, Thou hast plucked it from the hands of
the devil, who possessed it as his own; from his hands Thou hast plucked
it, catching the devil with the hook of Thy humanity, and hast wedded it
with Thy flesh. Thou hast given Thy Blood for a pledge, and at the last,
sacrificing Thy body, Thou hast made the payment. Now drink deep, my
daughter, and fall not into negligence, but arise with true zeal, and by
this Blood may the hardness of thy heart be broken in such wise that it
never may close again, for any ignorance or negligence, nor for the speech
of any creature. I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God.
Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Catherine, sent by the Florentines as their representative to the Pope,
has reached Avignon and seen the Holy Father. Far from being overawed in
his presence, she has evidently felt toward him a mingling of sympathy and
tenderness not untouched by compassion. She is impressed by the
sensitiveness of the man--by the strength of the adverse influences
continually playing upon him from his own household; above all, by his
extreme timidity. The gentle, reassuring tone of this letter is almost
like that of a mother encouraging a dear but weak-spirited child to make
his own decisions and to abide by them. Catherine's sweetness of nature
preserves her from viewing Gregory with any tinge of contempt; but we
cannot help feeling the contrast between this frail woman of heroic soul
and the hesitating figure of the Pope.

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

Most holy and blessed father in Christ sweet Jesus: your poor unworthy
little daughter Catherine comforts you in His precious Blood, with desire
to see you free from any servile fear. For I consider that a timorous man
cuts short the vigour of holy resolves and good desire, and so I have
prayed, and shall pray, sweet and good Jesus that He free you from all
servile fear, and that holy fear alone remain. May ardour of charity be in
you, in such wise as shall prevent you from hearing the voice of incarnate
demons, and heeding the counsel of perverse counsellors, settled in self-
love, who, as I understand, want to alarm you, so as to prevent your
return, saying, "You will die." And I tell you on behalf of Christ
crucified, most sweet and holy father, not to fear for any reason
whatsoever. Come in security: trust you in Christ sweet Jesus: for, doing
what you ought, God will be above you, and there will be no one who shall
be against you. Up, father, like a man! For I tell you that you have no
need to fear. You ought to come; come, then. Come gently, without any
fear. And if any at home wish to hinder you, say to them bravely, as
Christ said when St. Peter, through tenderness, wished to draw Him back
from going to His passion; Christ turned to him, saying, "Get thee behind
Me, Satan; thou art an offence to Me, seeking the things which are of men,
and not those which are of God. Wilt thou not that I fulfil the will of My
Father?" Do you likewise, sweetest father, following Him as His vicar,
deliberating and deciding by yourself, and saying to those who would
hinder you, "If my life should be spent a thousand times, I wish to fulfil
the will of my Father." Although bodily life be laid down for it, yet
seize on the life of grace and the means of winning it for ever. Now
comfort you and fear not, for you have no need. Put on the armour of the
most holy Cross, which is the safety and the life of Christians. Let talk
who will, and hold you firm in your holy resolution. My father, Fra
Raimondo, said to me on your behalf that I was to pray God to see whether
you were to meet with an obstacle, and I had already prayed about it,
before and after Holy Communion, and I saw neither death nor any peril.
Those perils are invented by the men who counsel you. Believe, and trust
you in Christ sweet Jesus. I hope that God will not despise so many
prayers, made with so ardent desire, and with many tears and sweats. I say
no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Pardon me, pardon me.
Jesus Christ crucified be with you. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Catherine's letters to great personages whom she did not know are, as
would be expected, less searching and fresh than the many written with a
more personal inspiration, but they afford at least an interesting
testimony to the breadth of her interests. This letter to Charles V. was
evidently written during her stay at Avignon, where she formed relations
with the Duke of Anjou, and received his promise to lead in the
prospective Crusade. Avignon was a centre of intellectual life and of
European politics, and Catherine must have been quickened there to think
more than ever before in large terms and on great issues. To think of a
matter is always, for her, to feel a sense of responsibility toward it;
she writes, accordingly, to Charles V., urging him to make peace with his
brother monarch: "For so," says the maid of Siena serenely to the great
King--"So you will fulfil the will of God and me."

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

Dearest lord and 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 you observe the holy and sweet commands of God, since I
consider that in no other way can we share the fruit of the Blood of the
Spotless Lamb. Sweet Jesus, the Lamb, has taught us the Way: and thus He
said: "Ego sum Via, Veritas et Vita." He is the sweet Master who has
taught us the doctrine, ascending the pulpit of the most holy Cross.
Venerable father, what doctrine and what way does He give us? His way is
this: pains, shames, insults, injuries, and abuse; endurance in true
patience, hunger and thirst; He was satiate with shame, nailed and held
upon the Cross for the honour of the Father and our salvation. With His
pains and shame He gave satisfaction for our guilt, and the reproach in
which man had fallen through the sin committed. He has made restitution,
and has punished our sins on His own Body, and this He has done of love
alone and not for debt.

This sweet Lamb, our Way, has despised the world, with all its luxuries
and dignity, and has hated vice and loved virtue. Do you, as son and
faithful servant of Christ crucified, follow His footsteps and the way
which He teaches you: bear in true patience all pain, torment, and
tribulation which God permits the world to inflict on you. For patience is
not overcome, but overcomes the world. Be, ah! be a lover of virtue,
founded in true and holy justice, and despise vice. I beg you, by love of
Christ crucified, to do in your state three especial things. The first is,
to despise the world and yourself and all its joys, possessing your
kingdom as a thing lent to you, and not your own. For well you know that
nor life nor health nor riches nor honour nor dignity nor lordship is your
own. Were they yours, you could possess them in your own way. But in such
an hour a man wishes to be well, he is ill; or living, and he is dead; or
rich, and he is poor; or a lord, and he is made a servant and vassal. All
this is because these things are not his own, and he can only hold them in
so far as may please Him who has lent them to him. Very simple-minded,
then, is the man who holds the things of another as his own. He is really
a thief, and worthy of death. Therefore I beg you that, as The Wise, you
should act like a good steward, made His steward by God; possessing all
things as merely lent to you.

The other matter is, that you maintain holy and true justice; let it not
be ruined, either for self-love or for flatteries, or for any pleasing of
men. And do not connive at your officials doing injustice for money, and
denying right to the poor: but be to the poor a father, a distributer of
what God has given you. And seek to have the faults that are found in your
kingdom punished and virtue exalted. For all this appertains to the divine
justice to do.

The third matter is, to observe the doctrine which that Master upon the
Cross gives you; which is the thing that my soul most desires to see in
you: that is, love and affection with your neighbour, with whom you have
for so long a time been at war. For you know well that without this root
of love, the tree of your soul would not bear fruit, but would dry up,
abiding in hate and unable to draw up into itself the moisture of grace.
Alas, dearest father, the Sweet Primal Truth teaches it to you, and leaves
you for a commandment, to love God above everything, and one's neighbour
as one's self. He gave you the example, hanging upon the wood of the most
holy Cross. When the Jews cried "Crucify!" He cried with meek and gentle
voice: "Father, forgive those who crucify Me, who know not what they do."
Behold His unsearchable love! For not only does He pardon them, but
excuses them before His Father! What example and teaching is this, that
the Just, who has in Him no poison of sin, endures from the unjust the
punishment of our iniquities!

Oh, how the man should be ashamed who follows the teaching of the devil
and his own lower nature, caring more to gain and keep the riches of this
world, which are all vain, and pass like the wind, than for his soul and
his neighbour! For while abiding in hate with his neighbour, he has hate
by his side, since hate deprives him of divine charity. Surely he is
foolish and blind, for he does not see that with the sword of hate to his
neighbour he is killing himself.

Therefore I beg you, and will that you follow Christ crucified, and love
your neighbour's salvation: proving that you follow the Lamb, who for
hunger of His Father's honour and the salvation of souls chose bodily
death. So do you, my lord! Care not if you lose from your worldly
substance; for loss will be gain to you, provided that you can reconcile
your soul with your brother. I marvel that you are not willing to devote
to this, not only temporal things, but even, were it possible, life
itself: considering how great destruction of souls and bodies there has
been, and how many Religious and women and children have been injured and
exiled by this war. No more, by love of Christ crucified! Do you not
reflect of how great harm you are cause, if you fail to do what you can?
Harm to the Christians, and harm to infidels. For your strife has
obstructed the mystery of the Holy Crusade, and is doing so still. If no
other harm than this followed, it seems to me that we ought to expect the
divine judgment. I beg you that you be no longer a worker of so great harm
and an obstructer of so great good as the recovery of Holy Land and of
those poor wretched souls who do not share in the Blood of the Son of God.
Of which thing you ought to be ashamed, you and the other Christian
rulers: for this is a very great confusion in the sight of men and
abomination in the sight of God, that war should be made against one's
brother, and the enemy left alone, and that a man should want to take away
another person's possessions and not to win his own back again. No more
such folly and blindness! I tell you, on behalf of Christ crucified, that
you delay no longer to make this peace. Make peace, and direct all your
warfare to the infidels. Help to encourage and uplift the standard of the
most holy Cross, which God shall demand from you and others at the point
of death--demanding also from you account for such ignorance and
negligence as has been committed and is committed every day. Sleep no
more, for love of Christ crucified, and for your own profit, during the
little time that remains to us: for time is short, and you are to die, and
know not when.

May the flame of holy desire to follow this holy Cross and to be
reconciled with your neighbour, increase in you! In this wise you will
follow the way and doctrine of the Lamb slain and abandoned on the Cross,
and you will observe the commandments. You will follow the way, enduring
with patience the injuries that have been offered you; the doctrine, being
reconciled with your neighbour; and the love of God, which you will
manifest by following the most holy Cross in the holy and sweet Crusade.
As to this matter, I think that your brother, Messer the Duke of Anjou,
will undertake the labour of this holy enterprise, for the love of Christ.
There would be reason for self-reproach did so sweet and holy a mystery
remain unfulfilled through you. Now in this wise you will follow the
footsteps of Christ crucified, you will fulfil the will of God and me, and
His commands: as I told you that I wished to see you observe the holy
commands of God. I say no more. Pardon my presumption. Remain in the holy
and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


The Florentines played with Catherine as history shows that subtle folk to
have played with more than one of the friends whose services they
accepted; the story of their dealings with her strongly recalls the
situation in Browning's _Luria_. Having been despatched ostensibly with
full powers as harbinger of the formal embassy to be sent later, Catherine
carried through her part of the negotiations with expedition, prudence and
entire success. It shows how such unconventional democracy and matter-of-
fact respect for spiritual values existed in the later middle ages, that
no one seems to have been surprised at the situation. Apparently it was
considered quite natural that a powerful republic should send as its
representative to the papal court a young woman, the daughter of simple
tradespeople, whose life had been quietly passed in her father's house.
Gregory bore himself to Catherine with compunctious deference. On the
third day after her arrival she spoke in full consistory, pleading the
cause of peace. The result she records in this letter: the Pope put the
whole matter in her hands. To the young Dominican were left the terms of
reconciliation between the two rival powers.

All now depended upon the arrival of the Florentine ambassadors; but these
gentlemen failed to appear, while Florence continued to pursue a
contumacious policy. The insult, alike to the Pope and to Catherine, was
obvious. Avignon jested, shrugged shoulders, finally sneered. Gregory
gently told Catherine the truth--that her friends had played her false.
Few more mortifying situations than that in which she found herself could
be conceived.

The spirited letter which follows was written ten days after her arrival.
She speaks, as usual, without reserve, but it is noteworthy that the
letter contains no word of personal reproof beyond the quiet statement:
"You might bring great shame and reproach upon me. For nothing but shame
and confusion could result if I told the Pope one thing and you another."
When at last the ambassadors arrived, they brought small comfort, for they
refused to confer with Catherine. In the second letter, written after they
had come to a personal friend in Florence, she tells the situation
frankly, and with dignity, but still with remarkable freedom from personal
bitterness. In this time of test, no lower element than sorrow for the
failure of her cause appears to have been present in her mind.


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

Dearest fathers and brothers in Christ Jesus: I Catherine, servant and
slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood:
with desire to see you true sons, humble and obedient to your father in
such wise that you may never look back, but feel true grief and bitterness
over the wrong that you have done to your father. For if he who does wrong
does not rise in grief above the wrong he has done, he does not deserve to
receive mercy. I summon you to true humiliation of your hearts; not
looking back, but going forward, following up the holy resolutions which
you began to take, and growing stronger in them every day, if you wish to
be received in the arms of your father. As sons who have been dead, do you
ask for life; and I hope by the goodness of God that you shall have it, if
you are willing really to humble yourselves and to recognize your faults.

But I complain strongly of you, if it is true what is said in these parts,
that you have imposed a tax upon the clergy. If this is so, it is a very
great evil for two reasons. The first is that you are wronging God by it,
for you cannot do it with a good conscience. But it seems to me that you
are losing your conscience and everything good; it seems as if you cared
for nothing but transitory things of sense, that pass like the wind. Do
you not see that we are mortal, and must die, and know not when? Therefore
it is great folly to throw away the life of grace, and to bring death on
one's own self. I do not wish you to do so any more, for if you did you
would be turning back, and you know that it is not he who begins who
deserves glory, but he who perseveres to the end. So I tell you that you
would never reach an effective peace, unless by perseverance in humility,
no longer insulting or offending the ministers and priests of Holy Church.

This is the other thing that I was telling you was harmful and bad. For
beside the evil I spoke of that comes from wronging God, I tell you that
such action is ruin to your peace. For the Holy Father, if he knew it,
would conceive greater indignation against you.

That is what some of the cardinals have said, who are seeking and eagerly
desiring peace. Now, hearing this report, they say: "It doesn't seem true
that the Florentines want to have peace made; for if it were true, they
would beware of any least action that was against the will of the Holy
Father and the habits of Holy Church." I believe that sweet Christ on
earth himself may say these and like words, and he has excellent reason to
say them if he does.

I tell you, dearest fathers, and I beg you, not to choose to hinder the
grace of the Holy Spirit, which by no merits of yours He by His clemency
is disposed to give you. You might bring great shame and reproach upon me.
For nothing but shame and confusion could result if I told the Holy Father
one thing and you did another. I beg you that it may not be so any more.
Nay, do you exert yourselves to show in word and deed that you wish peace
and not war.

I have talked to the Holy Father. He heard me graciously, by God's
goodness and his own, showing that he had a warm love of peace; like a
good father, who does not consider so much the wrong the son has done to
him, as whether he has become humble, so that he may be shown full mercy.
What peculiar joy he felt my tongue could not tell. Having discussed with
him a good length of time, at the end of our talk he said that if your
case were as I presented it to him, he was ready to receive you as sons,
and to do what seemed best to me. I say no more here. It seems to me that
absolutely no other answer ought to be given to the Holy Father until your
ambassadors arrive. I marvel that they are not here yet. When they shall
have come, I shall talk to them, and then to the Holy Father, and as I
shall find things disposed I will write you. But you, with your taxes and
frivolities, are spoiling all that is sown. Do so no more, for the love of
Christ crucified and for your own profit. I say no more. Remain in the
holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.

Given in Avignon, the 28th day of June, 1376.


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

Dearest brother 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 and the others your lords, pacify your heart and soul in
His most sweet Blood, wherein all hate and warfare is quenched, and all
human pride is lowered. For in the Blood man sees God humbled to his own
level, assuming our humanity, which was opened and nailed and fastened on
the Cross, so that it flows from the wounds of the Body of Christ
crucified, and pours over us the Blood which is ministered to us by the
ministers of Holy Church. I beg you by the love of Christ crucified to
receive the treasure of the Blood given you by the Bride of Christ. Be
reconciled, be reconciled to her in the Blood; recognize your sins and
offences against her. For he who recognizes his sin, and shows that he
does so by his deeds, and humbles him, always receives mercy. But he who
shows repentance only in speech, and goes no further in works, never finds
it. I do not say this so much for you as for others who might fall into
this fault.

Oh me, oh me, dearest brother! I mourn over the methods which have
prevailed in asking the Holy Father for peace. For words have been more in
evidence than deeds. I say this because when I came yonder into the
presence of you and your lords, they seemed by their words to have
repented for their wrong, and to be willing to humble themselves and to
ask mercy from the Holy Father. And when I said to them: "See, gentlemen,
if you intend to show all possible humility in deed and speech, and wish
me to offer you like dead children to your father, I will take all the
trouble you wish in this matter, otherwise I will not go yonder," they
answered me that they were content. Alas, alas! dearest brothers, this was
the way and the door by which you ought to have entered, and there is no
other. Had this way been followed in deed as in word, you would have had
the most glorious peace that anyone ever gained. And I do not say this
without reason, for I know what the Holy Father's disposition was; but
since we began to leave that path, following the astute ways of the world,
doing differently from what our words had previously implied, the Holy
Father has had reason, not for peace, but for more disturbance. For when
your ambassadors came into these parts, they did not hold to the right way
which the servants of God indicated to them. You went on in your own ways.
And I never had a chance to confer with them, as you told me that you
would direct when I asked for a letter of credentials, so that we might
confer together about everything, and you said: "We do not believe that
this thing will ever be accomplished by any other hands than those of the
servants of God." Exactly the contrary has been done. All is because we
have not yet true recognition of our faults. I perceive that those humble
words proceeded rather from fear and policy than from a real impulse of
love and virtue; for had the wrong done really been recognized, deeds
would have corresponded to the sound of words, and you would have trusted
your needs and what you wished from the Holy Father to the hands of the
true servants of God. They would so have conducted your affairs and those
of the Holy Father that you would have reached a good understanding. You
have not done it; wherefore I have felt great bitterness, over the wrong
done to God and over our loss.

But you do not see what evil and what great misfortunes come from your
obstinacy, and clinging fast to your resolution! Oh me, oh me! loose
yourselves from the bond of pride, and bind you to the humble Lamb; and do
not scorn or oppose His Vicar. No more thus! For the love of Christ
crucified! Hold not His Blood cheap! That which has not been done in past
time, do it now. Do not feel bitter or scornful should it seem to you that
the Holy Father demanded what appeared very hard and impossible to do.
Nevertheless he will not wish anything but what is possible to you. But he
does as a true father, who beats his son when he does wrong. He reproves
him very severely, to make him humble, and cognizant of his fault; and the
true son does not grow angry with his father, for he sees that whatever he
does is done for love of him; therefore the more the father drives him
off, the more he returns to him, ever asking for mercy. So I tell you, on
behalf of Christ crucified, that the more times you should be spurned by
our father Christ on earth, so many times you are to flee to him. Let him
do as he will, for he is right.

Behold that now he is coming to his bride, that is to hold the seat of St.
Peter and St. Paul. Do you run to him at once, with true humility of heart
and amendment of your sins, following the holy principle with which you
began. So doing, you shall have peace, spiritual and bodily. And if you do
in any other way, our ancestors never had so many woes as we shall have,
for we shall call down the wrath of God upon us, and shall not share in
the Blood of the Lamb.

I say no more. Be as urgent as you can, now that the Holy Father is to be
at Rome. I have done, and shall do, what I can, until death, for the
honour of God and for your peace, in order that this obstacle may be
removed, for it hinders the holy and sweet Crusade. If no other ill should
come from it, we are worthy of a thousand hells. Comfort you in Christ our
sweet Jesus, for I hope by His goodness that if you will keep in the way
you should you will have a good peace. Remain in the holy and sweet grace
of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


The attempt to reconcile Gregory with the Florentines miscarried through
their own fault. Catherine, far from being daunted by mortification or
failure, bent herself with new energy to the cause which she had even more
deeply at heart--the return of the Pope to Rome. The ascendency which she
obtained over his sensitive spirit was soon evident to everyone, and no
sooner was it realized than counter influences were set to work. Other
people beside this woman of Siena could write letters, and, since Gregory
proved superstitious and susceptible to the influence of holy fools, why,
there were ecstatics enough in Europe! The Pope, as is obvious from this
reply of Catherine's, had received an anonymous epistle, craftily wrought,
purporting to come from a man of God, working on his well-known love for
his family and timidity of nature, warning him of poison should he venture
to return to Rome. Whether Catherine's surmise that the letter was a
forgery proceeding from the papal court was justified we do not know; the
episode is of interest to us now chiefly because it called forth a reply
which shows how sardonic the meek of the earth can be. Catherine's
trenchant exposure of the weakness of the anonymous correspondent shows
her in a new aspect. Terrible is the scorn of the gentle. "He who wrote it
does not seem to me to understand his trade very well; he ought to put
himself to school," writes she, and proceeds with analysis so convincing
and exhortation so invigorating that even the vacillating Gregory must
have been magnetized afresh with power to resolve. One feels in the letter
that Catherine is as near impatience with him and with the situation as is
permitted to a saint. Gregory must have felt the sting in her words when
she tells him plainly that his correspondent treats him like a coward or a
frightened child, and adds on her own part, "I pray you on behalf of
Christ crucified that you be no longer a timorous child, but manly. Open
your mouth, and swallow down the bitter for the sake of the sweet." If
anyone could hold a weak nature true to its better self, it would be this
woman, endued as she was with a vitality that tingles through her words
down the centuries.

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

Most holy and reverend sweet father in Christ sweet Jesus: your poor
unworthy daughter Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus
Christ, writes to your Holiness in His precious Blood, with desire to see
you so strong and persevering in your holy resolve that no contrary wind
can hinder you, neither devil nor creature. For it seems that your enemies
are disposed to come, as Our Saviour says in His holy gospel, in sheeps'
raiment, looking like lambs, while they are ravening wolves. Our Saviour
says that we should be on our guard against such. Apparently, sweet
father, they are beginning to approach you in writing; and beside writing,
they announce to you the coming of the author, saying that he will arrive
at your door when you know it not. The man sounds humble when he says, "If
it is open to me, I will enter and we will reason together"; but he puts
on the garment of humility only that he may be believed. And the virtue in
which pride cloaks itself is really boastful.

So far as I have understood, this person has treated your Holiness in this
letter as the devil treats the soul, who often, under colour of virtue and
compassion, injects poison into it. And he uses this device especially
with the servants of God, because he sees that he could not deceive them
with open sin alone. So it seems to me that this incarnate demon is doing
who has written you under colour of compassion and in holy style, for the
letter purports to come from a holy and just man, and it does come from
wicked men, counsellors of the devil, who cripple the common good of the
Christian congregation and the reform of Holy Church, self-lovers, who
seek only their own private good. But you can soon discover, father,
whether it came from that just man or not. And it seems to me that, for
the honour of God, you must investigate.

So far as I can understand, I do not think the man a servant of God, and
his language does not so present him--but the letter seems to me a
forgery. Nor does he who wrote it understand his trade very well. He ought
to put himself to school--he seems to have known less than a small child.

Notice, now, most Holy Father: he has made his first appeal to the
tendency that he knows to be the chief frailty in man, and especially in
those who are very tender and pitiful in their natural affections, and
tender to their own bodies--for such men as these hold life dearer than
any others. So he fastened on this point from his first word. But I hope,
by the goodness of God, that you will pay more heed to His honour and the
safety of your own flock than to yourself, like a good shepherd, who ought
to lay down his life for his sheep.

Next, this poisonous man seems on the one hand to commend your return to
Rome, calling it a good and holy thing; but, on the other hand, he says
that poison is prepared for you there; and he seems to advise you to send
trustworthy men to precede you, who will find the poison on the tables--
that is, apparently, in bottles, ready to be administered by degrees,
either by the day, or the month, or the year. Now I quite agree with him
that poison can be found--for that matter, as well on the tables of
Avignon or other cities as on those of Rome: and prepared for
administration slowly, by the month, or the year, or in large quantities,
as may please the purchaser: it can be found everywhere. So he would think
it well for you to send, and delay your return for this purpose he
proposes that you wait till divine judgment fall by this means on those
wicked men who, it would seem, according to what he says, are seeking your
death. But were he wise, he would expect that judgment to fall on himself,
for he is sowing the worst poison that has been sown for a long time in
Holy Church, inasmuch as he wants to hinder you from following God's call
and doing your duty. Do you know how that poison would be sown? If you did
not go, but sent, as the good man advises you, scandal and rebellion,
spiritual and temporal, would be stirred up--men finding a lie in you, who
hold the Seat of Truth. For since you have decided on your return and
announced it, the scandal and bewilderment and disturbance in men's hearts
would be too great if they found that it did not happen. Assuredly he says
the truth: he is as prophetic as Caiphas when he said: "It is necessary
for one man to die that the people perish not." He did not know what he
was saying, but the Holy Spirit, who spoke the truth by his mouth, knew
very well--though the devil did not make him speak with this intention. So
this man is likely to be another Caiphas. He prophesies that if you send,
men will find poison. Truly so it is; for were your sins so great that you
stayed and they went, your confidants will find poison bottled in their
hearts and mouths, as was said. And not only enough for one day, but it
would last the month and the year before it was digested. Much I marvel at
the words of this man, who commends an act as good and holy and religious,
and then wants this holy act to be given up from bodily fear! It is not
the habit of the servants of God ever to be willing to give up a spiritual
act or work on account of bodily or temporal harm, even should life itself
be spent: for had they done thus, none of them would have reached his
goal. For the perseverance of holy and good desire into good works, is the
thing which is crowned, and which merits glory and not confusion.

Therefore I said to you, Reverend Father, that I desired to see you firm
and stable in your good resolution (since on this will follow the
pacification of your rebellious sons and the reform of Holy Church) and
also to see you fulfil the desire felt by the servants of God, to behold
you raise the standard of the most holy Cross against the infidels. Then
can you minister the Blood of the Lamb to those wretched infidels: for you
are cupbearer of that Blood, and hold the keys of it.

Alas, father, I beg you, by the love of Christ crucified, that you turn
your power to this swiftly, since without your power it cannot be done.
Yet I do not advise you, sweet father, to abandon those who are your
natural sons, who feed at the breasts of the Bride of Christ, for bastard
sons who are not yet made lawful by holy baptism. But I hope, by the
goodness of God, that if your legitimate sons walk with your authority,
and with the divine power of the sword of holy Writ, and with human force
and virtue, these others will turn to Holy Church the Mother, and you will
legalize them. It seems as if this would be honour to God, profit to
yourself, honour and exaltation to the sweet Bride of Christ Jesus, rather
than to follow the foolish advice of this just man, who propounds that it
would be better for you and for other ministers of the Church of God to
live among faithless Saracens than among the people of Rome and Italy.

I am pleased by the commendable hunger that he has for the salvation of
the infidels, but I am not pleased that he wishes to take the father from
his lawful sons, and the shepherd from the sheep gathered in the fold. I
think he wants to treat you as the mother treats the child when she wants
to wean him: she puts something bitter on her bosom, that he may taste the
bitterness before the milk, so that he may abandon the sweet through fear
of the bitter; because a child is more easily deluded by bitterness than
by anything else. So this man wants to do to you, suggesting to you the
bitterness of poison and of great persecution, to delude the childishness
of your weak sensuous love, that you may leave the milk through fear: the
milk of grace, which follows on your sweet return. And I beg of you, on
behalf of Christ crucified, that you be not a timorous child, but manly.
Open your mouth, and swallow down the bitter for the sweet. It would not
befit your holiness to abandon the milk for the bitterness. I hope by the
infinite and inestimable goodness of God, that if you choose He will show
favour to both us and to you; and that you will be a firm and stable man,
unmoved by any wind or illusion of the devil, or counsel of devil
incarnate, but following the will of God and your good desire, and the
counsel of the servants of Jesus Christ crucified.

I say no more. I conclude that the letter sent to you does not come from
that servant of God named to you, and that it was not written very far
away; but I believe that it comes from very near, and from the servants of
the devil, who have little fear of God. For in so far as I might believe
that it came from that man, I should not hold him a servant of God unless
I saw some other proof. Pardon me, father, my over-presumptuous speech.
Humbly I ask you to pardon me and give me your benediction. Remain in the
holy and sweet grace of God. I pray His infinite Goodness to grant me the
favour soon, for His honour, to see you put your feet beyond the threshold
in peace, repose, and quiet of soul and body. I beg you, sweet father, to
grant me audience when it shall please your Holiness, for I would find
myself in your presence before I depart. The time is short: therefore,
wherever it may please you, I wish that it might be soon. Sweet Jesus,
Jesus Love.


Catherine succeeded in her great aim. In September, 1376, Gregory actually
started for Rome. Her mission being ended, Catherine set forth on her
homeward journey on the same day as the Pope, though by a different route.
But her progress was interrupted at Genoa, where, owing to illness among
her companions, she was detained for a month in the house of Madonna
Orietta Scotta. Her prolonged absence seems to have been too much for the
patience of Monna Lapa, who was always unable to understand in the least
the actions of her puzzling though beloved child. Catherine, though lifted
into the region of great anxieties and great triumphs, was yet always
tenderly mindful of the claims of home. Very daughterly, very gently wise,
is this little letter to the lonely and fretful mother, written when the
saint had just passed through those exciting and decisive months at the
Papal court.

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

Dearest mother in Christ sweet Jesus: Your poor, unworthy daughter
Catherine comforts you in the precious Blood of the Son of God. With
desire have I desired to see you a true mother, not only of my body but of
my soul; for I have reflected that if you are more the lover of my soul
than of my body, all disordinate tenderness will die in you, and it will
not be such a burden to you to long for my bodily presence; but it will
rather be a consolation to you, and you will wish, for the honour of God,
to endure every burden for me, provided that the honour of God be wrought.
Working for the honour of God, I am not without the increase of grace and
power in my soul. Yes, indeed, it is true that if you, sweetest mother,
love my soul better than my body, you will be consoled and not
disconsolate. I want you to learn from that sweet mother, Mary, who, for
the honour of God and for our salvation, gave us her Son, dead upon the
wood of the most holy Cross. And when Mary was left alone, after Christ
had ascended into Heaven, she stayed with the holy disciples; and although
Mary and the disciples had great consolation together, and to separate was
sorrow, nevertheless, for the glory and praise of her Son, for the good of
the whole universal world, she consented and chose that they should go
away. And she chose the burden of their departure rather than the
consolation of their remaining, solely through the love that she had for
the honour of God and for our salvation. Now, I want you to learn from
her, dearest mother. You know that it behoves me to follow the will of
God; and I know that you wish me to follow it. His will was that I should
go away; which going did not happen without mystery, nor without fruit of
great value. It was His will that I should come, and not the will of man;
and whoever might say the opposite, it is not the truth. And thus it will
behove me to go on, following His footsteps in what way and at what time
shall please His inestimable goodness. You, like a good, sweet mother,
must be content, and not disconsolate, enduring every burden for the
honour of God, and for your and my salvation. Remember that you did this
for the sake of temporal goods, when your sons left you to gain temporal
wealth; now, to gain eternal life, it seems to you such an affliction that
you say that you will go and run away if I do not reply to you soon. All
this happens to you because you love better that part which I derived from
you--that is, your flesh, with which you clothed me--than what I have
derived from God. Lift up, lift up your heart and mind a little to that
sweet and holiest Cross where all affliction ceases; be willing to bear a
little finite pain, to escape the infinite pain which we merit for our
sins. Now, comfort you, for the love of Christ crucified, and do not think
that you are abandoned either by God or by me. Yet shall you be comforted,
and receive full consolation; and the pain has not been so great that the
joy shall not be greater. We shall come soon, by the mercy of God; and we
should not have delayed our coming now, were it not for the obstacle we
have had in the serious illness of Neri. Also Master Giovanni and Fra
Bartolommeo have been ill.... I say no more. Commend us.... Remain in the
holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love!


Monna Lapa was evidently not the only mother in Siena who fretted over the
long absence from home of Catherine and her spiritual children. Monna
Giovanna, of the noble family of the Maconi, longed for the presence of
Catherine's secretary, her beloved son Stefano. This is the second letter
which Catherine wrote in the effort to reconcile her. We cannot be
surprised if she murmured. Stefano had known Catherine for a few months
only when she bore him off with her to Avignon. Their relations dated from
January, 1376, when at his entreaty she healed a feud of long standing
between the Maconi and the rival house of the Tolomei. From this time he
attached himself to her person, and his devotion to her made him an object
of ridicule to his bewildered former friends. He was, by all accounts, a
singularly attractive and lovable young man--sunny, light-hearted, and
popular wherever he went. Catherine from the first loved him, as she avows
in this letter, with especial tenderness. She made him her trusted
intimate, and from now until shortly before her death he was in almost
constant attendance upon her, or when away was still occupied in her
affairs. Catherine was evidently on intimate and affectionate terms with
the rest of the Maconi family also; but it is not strange if Monna
Giovanna developed a little motherly jealousy, as she saw her brilliant
son not only absorbed by this new friendship, but borne away to distant
lands. Catherine's letter is as applicable to-day as then, to all parents
whose misguided tenderness would seek to hinder their children in a high

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

To you, dearest sister and daughter in Christ Jesus: I Catherine, servant
and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write in His precious Blood,
with desire to see you clothed in the wedding garment. For I consider that
without this garment the soul cannot please its Creator, nor take its
place at the Marriage Feast in the enduring life. I wish you, therefore,
to be clothed in it; and in order that you may clothe you the better, I
wish you to divest yourself of all self-love according to nature and the
senses, which you feel for yourself, your children, and any other created
thing. You ought to love neither yourself nor anything else apart from
God; for it is impossible that a man can serve two masters; if he serve
the one, he does not give satisfaction to the other. And there is no one
who can serve both God and the world, for they have no harmony with each
other. The world seeks honour, rank, wealth, sons in high place, good
birth, sensuous pleasure and indulgence, all rooted in perverted pride;
but God seeks and wants exactly the opposite. He wants voluntary poverty,
a humbled heart, disparagement of self and of every worldly joy and grace;
that personal honour be not sought, but the honour of God and the
salvation of one's neighbour. Let a man seek only in what way he may
clothe him in the fire of most ardent charity with the ornament of sweet
and sincere virtue, with true and holy patience; let him take no revenge
on another for any injury his neighbour may show him, but endure all in
patience, seeking only to pass sentence on himself, because he sees that
he has wronged the Sweet Primal Truth. And what he loves, let him love in
God, and apart from God love nothing.

And did you say to me, "In what way should I love?" I answer you that
children and everything else should be loved for love of Him who created
them, and not for love of one's self or the children; and that God should
never be wronged for their sake or any other. That is, do not love through
regard to any utility, nor as your own thing, but as a thing lent to you:
since whatever is given us in this life is given for use, as a loan, and
is left to us so long only as pleases the Divine Goodness which gave it
us. You should use everything, then, as a steward of Christ crucified,
spending your temporal substance so far as is possible to you for the
poor, who stand in the place of God; and so you ought to spend your
children, nourishing and educating them ever in the fear of God, and
wishing that they should die rather than wrong their Creator. Oh, make a
sacrifice of yourself and them to God! And if you see that God is calling
them, offer no resistance to His sweet will: but if they welcome it with
one hand, do you reach out both like a true loving mother, who loves their
salvation; do not desire to shape their lives to suit yourself--for this
would be a sign that you loved them apart from God--but with any state to
which God calls them, with that be you content. For a mother who loves her
children according to the wickedness of the world, says many a time: "It
pleases me well that my children should please God; they can serve Him in
the world as well as anywhere else." But it happens often to these simple
mothers, who want to plunge their children in the world, that later they
possess those children neither in the world nor in God. And it is a just
thing that they should be deprived of them, spirit and body, since such
ignorance and pride reigns in them that they want to lay down law and rule
to the Holy Spirit, who is calling them. Such people do not love their
children in God, but with sensuous self-love apart from God, for they love
their bodies more than their souls. Never, dearest sister and daughter in
Christ sweet Jesus, could he clothe himself in Christ crucified who had
not first divested him of this. I hope by the goodness of God that all
this will not apply to you, but that you will give yourself and them to
the honour and glory of the Name of God, like a true good mother, and so
shall you be clothed in the Wedding Garment. But in order that you may
clothe you the better, I want that you should lift your desire and heart
above the world and all its doings, and that you should open the eye of
the mind to know what love God bears to you, who has given you, for love,
the Word, His Only-Begotten Son; and the Son in burning love has given you
life, and has sacrificed His Body that He might cleanse us with His Blood.
Ignorant are we and wretched who nor know nor love so great a benefit! But
all this is because our eyes are closed; for were they open, and had they
fastened themselves on Christ crucified, they would not be ignorant nor
ungrateful in presence of so great grace. Therefore I say to you, keep
your eyes ever open, and fasten them fixedly on the Lamb that was slain,
in order that you may never fall into ignorance.

Up, sweetest daughter, let us delay no more! Let us recover the time we
have lost, with true and perfect love; so that, clothing ourselves in this
life with the garment I spoke of, we may joy and exult at the Marriage
Feast in the enduring life--you and your husband and your children
together. And comfort you sweetly, and be patient, and do not grow
disturbed because I have kept Stefano so long: for I have taken good care
of him, for by love and tenderness I have become one thing with him,
therefore I have treated your things as if they were my own. I think you
have not taken this in bad part. I wish to do whatever I can for him and
for you, even to death. You, mother, bore him once; and I wish to bear him
and you and all your family, in tears and sweats, by continual prayers and
desire for your salvation.

I say no more. Commend me to Currado, and bless all the rest of the
family, and especially my little new plant, that has just been planted
anew in the Garden of Holy Church. Be it commended to you, and do you
bring it up for me virtuously, so that it may shed fragrance among the
other flowers. God fill you with His most sweet favour. Remain in the holy
and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Apart from her relations with Religious seeking to follow the Counsels,
Catherine directed the life of a number of devout laymen. Among these was
Ristoro Canigiani, an honourable citizen of Florence, whose younger
brother, Barduccio, became one of her secretaries, and was with her at her
death. In the first letter to Ristoro here given, we see that he had
already become Catherine's disciple. He had evinced his sincerity by
forgiving his enemies--a feat more practical and difficult for most men in
those days than now--by withdrawing in a measure from society--
(ecclesiastical, one notes, as well as secular)--and by embracing the
simple life, selling his superfluous possessions. In the second letter
given, he has evidently advanced in experience. Like many religious souls
since his day, he suffers from scruples lest he be unworthy to receive the
Holy Communion. Catherine handles his difficulties tenderly and wisely, in
words which all anxious souls would do well to take to heart. She has no
reproofs for this excellent man, only applause and encouragement. It is
noteworthy that neither in these letters nor in any others does she seek
to induct Ristoro into that region of ecstatic mystery where she herself
lived, and whither she was wont to expect--often in vain--certain of her
friends to follow her. The standard which she sets for this devout layman
could not be better summed up than in the familiar words: "A sober, godly,
and righteous life."

In other letters to Ristoro she seeks to inspire him with a fervour of
charity by very beautiful meditations, in which she presents the love of
friends and family as sanctified and glorified by its relation to the all-
enfolding Love from which all pure human affection must proceed. In her
attitude toward the natural world and its claims, Catherine again recalls
St. Bernard, who, in naming the degrees of love, starts from an hypothesis
which sets forth natural things, not as evil and destroying, but good, and
waiting their transfiguration. Like poor Francesca, but with a conception
more pure, Catherine rings the changes on the words "amore," "amare."
"Perocche, condizione é del' amore d' amare quando si sente amare, d'
amare tutte le cose che ama colui ch' egli ama. E però, à mano che l'
anima ha conosciuto l' amore del suo Creatore verso di lui, l' ama: e
amandolo, ama tutte quelle cose che Dio ama." "For it is of the nature of
love, to love when it feels itself loved, and to love all things loved of
its beloved. So when the soul has by degrees known the love of its Creator
toward it, it loves Him, and, loving Him, loves all things whatsoever that
God loves." ... As we read, we recognize once more how far is this great
Mystic from the cold asceticism that has sometimes been attributed to her.

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

Dearest brother 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 constant and persevering in virtue; for it is not he who
begins who is crowned, but only he who perseveres. For Perseverance is the
Queen who is crowned; she stands between Fortitude and true Patience, but
she alone receives a crown of glory. So I want you, dearest brother, to be
constant and persevering in virtue, that you may receive the reward of
your every labour. I hope in the great goodness of God that He will
fortify you in such wise that neither demon nor fellow-creature can make
you look back to your vomit.

You seem, according to what you write me, to have made a good beginning,
in which I rejoice greatly for your salvation, seeing your holy desire.
First, you say that you have forgiven every man who had wronged you or
wished to wrong you. This is a thing which is very necessary, if you wish
to have God in your soul through grace, and to be at rest even according
to the world. For he who abides in hate is deprived of God and is in a
state of condemnation, and has in this life the foretaste of hell; for he
is always gnawing at himself, and hungers for vengeance, and abides in
fear. Believing to slay his enemy, he has first killed himself, for he has
slain his soul with the knife of hate. Such men as these, who think to
slay their enemy, slay themselves. He who truly forgives through the love
of Christ crucified, has peace and quiet, and suffers no perturbation; for
the wrath that perturbs is slain in his soul, and God the Rewarder of
every good gives him His grace and at the last eternal life. What joy the
soul, then, receives, and gladness and rest in its conscience, the tongue
could never tell. And even according to the world, very great honour is
given to the man who through love of virtue and magnanimity does not
greedily desire to wreak vengeance on his enemy. So I summon you and
comfort you, to persevere in this holy resolution.

To demand and obtain your own in a reasonable way, this you can do with
good conscience; whoever wants to can do it: for a man is not bound to
abandon his possessions more than he chooses; but he who would choose to
abandon them would reach a much greater perfection. It is well and
excellent not to go to the Bishop's house nor to the palace, but to stay
peaceably at home. For if other people get excited, we are weak, and often
we find our own soul excited, and doing unjust and irrational things, one
to show that he knows more than another, and one from appetite for money.
Yes, it is better to keep away from the place.

But I add one thing: that when such poor men and women as are clearly in
the right, and have no one to help them, show us the reason why they have
no money, it would be greatly to the honour of God for you to undertake
their cause, from the impulse of charity, like St. Ives, who in his time
was the lawyer of the poor. Consider that the deed of pity, and
ministering to the poor with those faculties which God has given you, is
very pleasing to God, and salvation to your soul. Therefore St. Gregory
says that it is impossible that a pitiful man should perish with an evil,
that is, an eternal death. This, then, pleases me much, and I beg you to
do it.

In all your works put God before your eyes, saying to yourself when
intemperate appetite would lift its head against the resolution you have
made: "Consider, my soul, that the eye of God is upon thee, and sees the
secret of thy heart. Thou art mortal, for thou must die, and knowest not
when; and it shall befit thee to render account before the highest Judge
of what thou shalt do--a Judge who punishes every fault and rewards every
good deed." In this wise, if you put on the bit it will not slip off,
separating from the will of God.

You ought to give satisfaction to your soul as soon as you can, and
unburden your conscience of what you feel it burdened with. Give it
satisfaction, either for the trouble it has felt in giving up temporal
possessions, or for the other annoyances that others have given it. And
have pardon asked fully from everyone, in order that you may always remain
in the joy of charity with your neighbour. As for selling the goods which
you have over and above, and the showy garments (which are very harmful,
dearest brother, and a means of penetrating the heart with vanity, and
nourishing it with pride, since they make a man seem to be more and bigger
than others, boasting of what one ought not to boast of; so it is great
shame to us, false Christians, to see our Head tormented, and to abide
ourselves in such luxuries: so St. Bernard says, that it is not fitting
for limbs to be delicate beneath a thorn-crowned Head),--I say that you do
very well to find a remedy for this. But clothe you as you need, modestly,
at no immoderate price, and you will greatly please God. And, so far as
you can, make your wife and your sons do the same; so that you may be to
them example and teacher, as the father should be, who should educate his
sons with the words and deeds of virtue.

I add one thing; that you abide in the state of marriage, with fear of
God, and treat it with reverence as a sacrament, and not with intemperate
desire. Hold in due reverence the days ordered by Holy Church, like a
reasonable man, and not a brute beast. Then from yourself and her, like
good trees, you will bring forth good fruits.

You will do very well to refuse offices; for a man seldom fails to give
offence in them. It ought to weary you simply to hear them mentioned. Let
the dead, then, bury themselves, and do you exert yourself, in liberty of
heart, to please God, loving Him above everything in the desire of virtue,
and your neighbour as yourself, fleeing the world and its delights.
Renounce your sins and your own fleshly instincts, ever bringing back to
memory the favours of God, and especially the favour of the Blood, shed
for us with such fire of love.

Again, it is needful for you, if you wish your soul to preserve grace and
grow in virtue, to make your holy confession often for your joy, that you
may wash your soul's face in the Blood of Christ. At least once a month,
since indeed we soil it every day. If more, more; but less it seems to me
ought not to be done. And rejoice in hearing the Word of God. And when the
season shall come that we are reconciled with our Father, do you
communicate on the solemn Feasts, or at least once a year: rejoicing in
the Office, and hearing Mass every day; and if you cannot every day, at
least you must make an effort, just as far as you can, on the days which
are ordered by Holy Church, to which we are bound.

Prayer must not be far from you. Nay, on the due and ordered hours, so far
as you can, seek to withdraw a little, to know yourself, and the wrongs
done to God, and the largess of His goodness, which has worked and is
working so sweetly in you; opening the eye of your mind in the light of
most holy faith, to behold how beyond measure God loves us; love which He
shows us through the means of His only-begotten Son. And I beg that, if
you are not saying it already, you should say every day the office of the
Virgin, that she may be your refreshment and your advocate before God. As
to ordering your life, I beg you to do it. Fast on Saturday, in reverence
for Mary. And never give up the days commanded by Holy Church, unless of
necessity. Avoid being at intemperate banquets, but live moderately, like
a man who does not want to make a god of his belly. But take food for
need, and not for the wretched pleasure it gives. For it is impossible
that any man who does not govern himself in eating should keep himself

But I am sure that the infinite goodness of God, as regards this and all
the rest, will make you yourself adopt that rule which will be needful for
your salvation. And I will pray, and will make others pray, that He grant
you perfect perseverance until death, and illumine you concerning that
which you have to do for your salvation. I say no more to you. 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 you in His precious Blood: with desire
to see you free from every particle of self-love, so that you may not lose
the light and knowledge which come from seeing the unspeakable love which
God has for you. And because it is light which makes us know this, and
false love is what takes light from us, therefore I have very great desire
to see it quenched in you. Oh, how dangerous this self-love is to our
salvation! It deprives the soul of grace, for it takes from it the love of
God and of its neighbour, which makes us live in grace. It deprives us of
light, as we said, because it darkens the eye of the mind, and when the
light is taken away we walk in darkness, and do not know what we need.

What do we need to know? The great goodness of God, and His unspeakable
love toward us; the perverse law which always fights against the Spirit,
and our own wretchedness. In this knowledge the soul begins to render His
due to God; that is, glory and praise to His Name, loving Him above
everything, and the neighbour as one's self, with eager desire for virtue;
and the soul bestows hate and displeasure on itself, hating in itself
vice, and its own sensuousness, which is the cause of every vice. The soul
wins all virtue and grace in the knowledge of itself, abiding therein with
light, as was said. Where shall the soul find the wealth of contrition for
its sins, and the abundance of God's mercy? In this House of Self-

Now let us see whether we find it in ourselves or not. Let us talk
somewhat about it. For, as you wrote me, you have a desire to feel
contrition for your sins, and not being able to feel it, you give up for
this reason Holy Communion. Now we shall see whether you ought to give it
up for this.

You know that God is supremely good, and loved us before we were: and is
Eternal Wisdom, and His Power in virtue is immeasurable: so for this
reason we are sure that He has power, knowledge, and will to give us what
we need. Well we see, in proof, that He gives us more than we know how to
ask, and that which was not asked by us. Did we ever ask Him that He
should create us reasonable creatures, in His own image and likeness,
rather than brute beasts? No. Or that He should create us by Grace by the
Blood of the Word, His only-begotten Son, or that He should give us
Himself for food, perfect God and perfect Man, flesh and blood, body and
soul, united to Deity? Beyond these most high gifts, which are so great,
and show such fire of love toward us, that there is no heart so hard that
its hardness and coldness would not melt by considering them at all:
infinite are the gifts and graces which we receive from Him without

Then, since He gives so much without our asking--how much the more will He
fulfil our desires when we shall desire a just thing of Him? Nay, who
makes us desire and ask it? Only He. Then, if He makes us ask it, it is a
sign that He means to fulfil it, and give us what we seek.

But you will say to me: "I confess that He is what thou sayest. But how
comes it that many a time I ask, both contrition and other things, and
they seem not to be given me?" I answer you: It may be it is through a
defect in him who asks, asking imprudently, with words alone and not with
his whole heart--and of such as these Our Saviour said that they call Him
Lord, Lord, but shall not be known of Him--not that He does not know them,
but for their fault they shall not be known of His mercy. Or, the man who
prays asks for something which, if he had it, would be injurious to his
salvation. So that, when he does not have what he asks, he really has it,
because he asks for it thinking that it would be for his good; but if he
had it, it would be to his harm, and it is for his good not to have it; so
God has satisfied the intention with which he asked it. So that on God's
side we always have our prayer; but this is the case, that God knows the
secret and the open, and is aware of our imperfection; so He sees that if
He gave us the grace at once as we ask it, we should do like an unclean
creature, who, rising from the sweetest honey, does not mind afterwards
lighting on a fetid object. God sees that we do so many a time. For,
receiving His graces and benefits, sharing the sweetness of His charity,
we do not mind afterward alighting on miserable things, turning back to
the filth of the world. Therefore, God sometimes does not give us what we
ask as soon as we should like, to make us increase in the hunger of our
desire, because He rejoices and pleases Himself in seeing the hunger of
His creatures toward Him.

Sometimes He will do us the grace by giving it to us in effect though not
in feeling. He uses this means with foresight, because He knows that if a
man felt himself to possess it, either he would slacken the pull of
desire, or would fall into presumption; therefore He withdraws the
feeling, but not the grace. There are others who both receive and feel,
according as it pleases the sweet goodness of our Physician to give to us
sick folk; and He gives to everyone in the way that our sickness needs.
You see, then, that in any case the yearning of the creature, with which
it asks of God, is always fulfilled. Now we see what we ought to seek, and
how prudently.

It seems to me that the Sweet Primal Truth teaches us what we ought to
seek when in the holy Gospel, reproving man for the intemperate zeal which
he bestows on gaining and holding the honours and riches of the world, He
said: "Take no thought for the morrow. Its own care suffices for the day."
Here He shows us that we should consider prudently the shortness of time.
Then He adds: "Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven; for your heavenly Father
knows well that you have need of these lesser things." What is this
kingdom, and how is it sought? It is the kingdom of eternal life, and the
kingdom of our own soul, for this kingdom of the soul, unless it is
possessed through reason, never becomes part of the kingdom of God. With
what is it sought? Not only with words--we have already said that such as
these are not recognized by God--but with the yearning of true and real
virtues. Virtue is what seeks and possesses this kingdom of heaven;
virtue, which makes a man prudent, so that he works for the honour of God
and the salvation of himself and his neighbour, with prudence and
maturity. Prudently he endures his neighbour's faults; prudently he rules
the impulse of charity, loving God above everything, and his neighbour as
himself. This is the rule: that he hold him ready to give bodily life for
the salvation of souls, and temporal goods to help the body of his
neighbour. Such a rule is set by prudent charity. Were he imprudent, it
would be just the opposite as with many who use a foolish and crazy sort
of charity, who many a time, to help their neighbour--I speak not of his
soul, but of his body--are ready to betray their own souls, by publishing
abroad lies, giving false witness. Such men as these lose charity, because
it is not built upon prudence.

We have seen that we must seek the kingdom of Heaven prudently: now I
answer you about the attitude we should hold toward the Holy Communion,
and how it befits us to take it. We should not use a foolish humility, as
do secular men of the world. I say, it befits us to receive that sweet
Sacrament, because it is the food of souls without which we cannot live in
grace. Therefore no bond is so great that it cannot and must not be
broken, that we may come to this sweet Sacrament. A man must do on his
part as much as he can, and that is enough. How ought we to receive it?
With the light of most holy faith, and with the mouth of holy desire. In
the light of faith you shall contemplate all God and all Man in that Host.
Then the impulse that follows the intellectual perception, receives with
tender love and holy meditation on its sins and faults, whence it arrives
at contrition, and considers the generosity of the immeasurable love of
God, who in so great love has given Himself for our food. Because one does
not seem to have that perfect contrition and disposition which he himself
would wish, he must not therefore turn away; for goodwill alone is
sufficient, and the disposition which on his part exists.

Again I say, that it befits us to receive as was imaged in the Old
Testament, when it was commanded that the Lamb should be eaten roasted and
not seethed; whole and not in part; girded and standing, staff in hand;
and the blood of the Lamb should be placed on the stone of the threshold.
Thus it befits us to receive this Sacrament: to eat it roasted, and not
seethed; for were it seethed there would be interposed earth and water--
that is, earthly affections and the water of self-love. Therefore it must
be roasted, so that there shall be nothing between. We take it so when we
receive it straight from the fire of divine charity. And we ought to be
girt with the girdle of conscience, for it would be very shocking that one
should advance to so great cleanliness and purity with mind or body
unclean. We ought to stand upright, that is, our heart and mind should be
wholly faithful and turned toward God; with the staff of the most holy
Cross, where we find the teaching of Christ crucified. This is the staff
on which we lean, which defends us from our foes, the world, the devil,
and the flesh. And it befits us eat it whole and not in part: that is, in
the light of faith, we should contemplate not only the Humanity in this
sacrament, but the body and soul of Christ crucified, wrought into unity
with Deity, all God and all Man. We must take the Blood of this Lamb and
put it upon our forehead--that is, confess it to every rational being,
and never deny it, for pain or for death. Thus sweetly it befits us to
receive this Lamb, prepared in the fire of charity upon the wood of the
Cross. Thus we shall be found signed with the seal of Tau, and shall never
be struck by the avenging angel.

I said that it did not befit us, nor do I wish you, to do as many
imprudent laymen, who pass over what is commanded them by Holy Church,
saying: "I am not worthy of it." Thus they spend a long time in mortal sin
without the food of their souls. Oh, foolish humility! Who does not see
that thou art not worthy? At what time dost thou await worthiness? Do not
await it; for thou wilt be just as worthy at the end as at the beginning.
For with all our just deeds, we shall never be worthy of it. But God is He
who is worthy, and makes us worthy with His worth. His worth grows never
less. What ought we to do? Make us ready on our part, and observe His
sweet commandment. For did we not do so, giving up communion, in such wise
believing to flee from fault, we should fall into fault.

Therefore I conclude, and will that such folly be not in you; but that you
make you ready, as a faithful Christian, to receive this Holy Communion as
I said. You will do it just as perfectly as you are in true knowledge of
yourself; not otherwise. For if you abide in that knowledge, you will see
everything clearly. Do not slacken your holy desire, for pain or loss, or
injury or ingratitude of those whom you have served; but manfully, with
true and long perseverance you shall persevere till death. Thus I beg you
to do by the love of Christ crucified. I say no more. Remain in the holy
and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Catherine lays down admirable political principles, for the fourteenth or
for the twentieth century. Yet times have changed, and we can hardly
imagine a modern city council giving serious welcome to such a letter as
this. It is a fair specimen of the letters which she was in the habit of
sending to the governments of the Italian towns--direct, simple, high-
minded presentations of the fundamental virtues on which the true
prosperity of a State must rest. She was capable, as she showed during the
Schism, of detailed political sagacity: but she never lost the womanly
conviction that moral generalizations would convict men of sin and point
them to the path of holiness. Nor was she wholly wrong. Her letters seem
to have been received with respect, and not to have failed in
effectiveness. On the present occasion, the authorities of Bologna have
evidently sent asking her prayers. These she promises gladly, but adds
that the Bolognese must not expect "the servants of God" to do all their
work for them.

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

Dearest brothers 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 divested of the old man and clothed with the new--
divested, that is, of the world and the fleshly self-love which is the old
sin of Adam, and clothed with the new Christ sweet Jesus, and His tender
charity. When this charity is in the soul, it seeks not its own, but is
liberal and generous to render His due to God: to love Him above
everything else, and to hate its own lower nature; and to love itself for
God, rendering praise and glory to His Name: to render its neighbour
benevolence, with fraternal charity and well-ordered love. For charity
ought to be regulated: that is, a man must not wrong himself by sinning,
in order to rescue one soul--nay more, in order, were it possible, to save
the whole world; since it is not lawful to commit the least fault to
achieve a great virtue. And our body should not be sacrificed to rescue
the body of our neighbour; but we ought surely to sacrifice our bodily
life for the salvation of souls, and temporal possessions for the welfare
and life of our neighbour. So you see that this charity should be and is
regulated in the soul.

But those who are deprived of charity and full of self-love do just the
opposite; and as they are extravagant in their affections, so they are in
all their works. Thus we see that men of the world serve and love their
neighbour without virtue, and in sin; and to serve and please them, they
do not mind disserving and displeasing God, and injuring their own souls.
This is that perverted love which often kills soul and body--robs us of
light and casts us into darkness, robs us of life and condemns us to
death, deprives us of the conversation of the Blessed and leads us to that
of Hell. And if a man does not correct himself while he has time, he
destroys the shining pearls of holy justice, and loses the warmth of true
charity and obedience.

Now on whatever side we turn, we see every kind of rational creature
lacking in all virtue, and arrayed in this evil fleshly self-love. If we
turn to the prelates, they devote themselves so much to their own affairs
and live so luxuriously, that they do not seem to care when they see their
subjects in the hands of demons. As to the subjects, it is just the same,
they do not care to obey either the civil law or the divine, nor do they
care to serve one another unless for their own profit. And yet this kind
of love, and the union of those who are united by natural love and not by
true charity, does not suffice; such friendship suffices and lasts only so
long as pleasure and enjoyment lasts, and the personal profit derived from

So, when a man is lord, he fails in holy justice. And this is the reason:
that he fears to lose his dignity, and, so as not to excite annoyance, he
goes about cloaking and hiding men's faults, spreading ointment over a
wound at the time when it ought to be cauterized. Oh, miserable my soul!
When the man ought to apply the flame of divine charity, and burn out the
fault with holy punishment and correction inflicted by holy justice, he
flatters and pretends that he does not see. He behaves thus toward those
who he sees might impair his dignity; but as to the poor, who count for
little and whom he does not fear, he shows very great zeal for justice,
and without any mercy or pity imposes most severe punishment for a little
fault. What causes such injustice? Self-love. But the wretched men of the
world, because they are deprived of truth, do not recognize truth, either
as regards their salvation or as regards the true preservation of their
lordship. For did they know the truth, they would see that only living in
the fear of God preserves their state and the city in peace: they would
preserve holy justice, rendering his due to every subject, they would show
mercy on whoso deserved mercy, not by passionate impulse, but by regard
for truth; and justice they would show on whoso deserved it, built upon
mercy, and not on passionate wrath. Nor would they judge by hearsay, but
by holy and true justice; and they would heed the common good, and not any
private good, and would appoint officials and those who are to rule the
city, not by party or prejudice, not for flatteries or bribery, but with
virtue and reason alone; and they would choose men mature and excellent,
and not mere children--such as fear God and love the Commonwealth and not
their own particular advantage. Now in this way, their state and the city
is preserved in peace and unity. But unjust deeds, and living in cliques,
and the appointment to rule and government of men who do not know how to
rule themselves or their families--unjust and violent, passionate lovers
of themselves--these are the methods that make them lose both the state of
spiritual grace and their temporal state. To such as these it may be said:
"In vain thou dost labour to guard thy city if God guard it not: if thou
fear not God, and hold Him not before thee in thy works."

So you see, dearest brothers and lords, that self-love ruins the city of
the soul, and ruins and overturns the cities of earth. I will that you
know that nothing has so divided the world into every kind of people as
self-love, from which injustice is for ever born.

Apparently, dearest brothers, you have a desire to increase and preserve
the welfare of your city; and this desire moved you to write to me, poor
wretch that I am, full of faults. I heard and saw that letter with tender
love, and with wish to satisfy your desires, and to exert me, with what
grace God shall give me, to offer you and your city before God with
continual prayer. If you shall be just men, and carry on your government
as I said above, not in passion nor for self-love or your private good,
but for the universal good founded on the Rock Christ sweet Jesus, and if
you do all your works in His fear, then by means of prayer you shall
preserve the state, the peace and unity of your city. Therefore I beg you
by the love of Christ crucified--for there is no other way--that since you
have the help of the prayers of the servants of God, you should not fail
on your side in what is needful. For did you fail you might to be sure be
helped a little by the prayers, but not so much that it would not soon
come to nothing; because you ought to help, on your part, to bear this

So, considering that if you were clothed in fleshly and personal love, you
could not help the servants of God, and that he who does not help himself
with virtue and holy zeal for justice, cannot help his brothers' city, I
say that it is needful for you to be clothed with the New Man, Christ
sweet Jesus, and His immeasurable charity. But we cannot be clothed
therein unless first we divest us--nor could I divest me unless I see how
harmful it is to me to hold my old sin, and how useful the new garment of
divine charity. For when man has seen his sin, he hates it, and strips it
off; and loves, and in love arrays him in the garment of virtue woven with
the love of the New Man. Now this is the Way. Therefore I said to you that
I desired to see you divested of the old man and clothed with the New Man,
Christ crucified; and in this way you shall win and keep the state of
grace and the state of your city, and you will never fail in the reverence
due to Holy Church, but with pleasing manner will render your due and keep
your state. I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God.
Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Ardour is the first trait which one feels in approaching the character of
Catherine; but the second is fidelity. Neither the one nor the other
flagged till the hour of her death. In the grave and tranquil words of
this letter we can see, yet more clearly, perhaps, than in the fervid
utterances of hours of excitement or crisis, how profound was her
conception of the Church, how fixed her resolution to sacrifice herself
for "that sweet Bride." Gregory has returned to Italy, and Catherine is
knowing a brief respite from public responsibilities in the comparative
retirement of Siena. But peace is not yet made with Florence, nor is the
reform of the Church even begun. Her heart, however, refuses to harbour
discouragement, and seeking as ever to hold others to the same steady
pitch of faith and consecration which she herself maintained, she writes
to the secretary of the Pope. He appears to have been a holy man who
shared her aspirations, but he was evidently disheartened by the apparent
failure of his efforts and by the necessary absorption in external things
of a life dedicated to public affairs. Catherine's keen analysis leaves
Nicholas of Osimo no excuse for indolence. Her letter, especially in the
earlier portion, reads like a paraphrase of Newman's fine verses on

  "Time was, I shrank from what was right
    For fear of what was wrong:
  I would not mingle in the fight
    Because the foe was strong:

  "But now I cast that finer sense
    And sorer shame aside:
  Such dread of sin was indolence,
    Such aim at heaven was pride.

  "So, when my Saviour calls, I rise,
    And calmly do my best,
  Leaving to Him, with silent eyes
    Of hope and fear, the rest.

  "I step, I mount, where He has led;
    Men count my haltings o'er;
  I know them; yet, though self I dread,
    I love His precept more."

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

Dearest and most reverend 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 you a firm pillar, that shall never
move, except in God; never avoiding or refusing the toils and labours laid
on you in the mystical body of Holy Church, the sweet Bride of Christ--
neither for the ingratitude and ignorance you found among those who feed
in that garden, nor from the weariness that might afflict us from seeing
the affairs of the Church get into a disorderly state. For it often
happens that when a man is spending all his efforts on something, and it
does not come about in the way or to the end that he wants, his mind falls
into weariness and sadness, as if he reflected and said: "It is better for
thee to give up this enterprise which thou hast begun and worked on so
long, and it is not yet come to an end: and to seek peace and quiet in thy
own mind." Then the soul ought to reply boldly, hungering for the honour
of God and the salvation of souls, and decline personal consolation, and
say: "I will not avoid or flee from labour, for I am not worthy of peace
and quiet of mind. Nay, I wish to remain in that state which I have
chosen, and manfully to give honour to God with my labour, and my labour
to my neighbour." Yet sometimes the devil, to make our enterprises weary
us, when we feel little peace of mind, will make a suggestion to the man,
saying in his thought: "I am doing more harm in this thing than I am
deserving good. So I would gladly run away from it, not on account of the
labour, but because I do not want to do harm." Oh, dearest father, do not
yield either to yourself or the devil, nor believe him, when he puts such
thoughts into your heart and mind; but embrace your labour with gladness
and ardent desire, and without any servile fear.

And do not be afraid to do wrong in this; for wrong is shown to us in a
disordered and perverse will. For when the will is not settled in God,
then one does wrong. The time of the soul is not lost because it may be
deprived of consolations, and of saying its office and many psalms, and
cannot say them at the right time or place, or with that peace of mind
which it would itself wish. Nay, it is occupied wholly for God. So it
ought not to feel pain in its mind--especially when it is labouring and
working for the Bride of Christ. For in whatever way or concerning
whatever matter we are labouring for her, it is so deserving and gives
such pleasure to God, that our intellect does not suffice to see or
imagine it.

I recall, dearest father, a servant of God to whom it was shown how
pleasing this service is to Him; I tell this that you may be encouraged to
bear labours for Holy Church. This servant of God, as I understood, having
one time among others an intense desire to shed her blood and her life and
annihilate her very consciousness for Holy Church, the Bride of Christ,
lifted the eye of her mind to know that she had no being in herself, and
to know the goodness of God toward her--that is, to see how God through
love had given her being and all gifts and graces that follow from being.
So, seeing and tasting such love and such depths of mercy, she saw not how
she could respond to God except by love. But because she could be of no
use to Him, she could not show her love; therefore she gave herself to
considering whether she found anyone to love through Him, by whom she
might show love. So she saw that God loved supremely His rational
creatures, and she found the same love to all that was given to herself,
for all are loved of God. This was the means she found (which showed
whether she loved God or not) by which she could be of use. So then she
rose ardently, full of charity to her neighbours, and conceived such love
for their salvation that she would willingly have given her life for it.
So the service which she could not render to God she desired to render to
her neighbour. And when she had realized that it befitted her to respond
by means of her neighbour, and thus to render Him love for love--as God by
means of the Word, His Son, has shown us love and mercy--so, seeing that
by means of desire for the salvation of souls, giving honour to God and
labour to one's neighbour, God was well pleased--she looked then to see in
what garden and upon what table the neighbour might be enjoyed.

Then Our Saviour showed her, saying: "Dearest daughter, it befits thee to
eat in the garden of my Bride, upon the table of the most holy Cross,
giving thy suffering, and crucified desire, and vigils and prayers, and
every activity that thou canst, without negligence. Know that thou canst
not have desire for the salvation of souls without having it for Holy
Church; for she is the universal body of all creatures who share the light
of holy faith, who can have no life if they are not obedient to My Bride.
Therefore, thou oughtest to desire to see thy Christian neighbours, and
the infidels and every rational creature, feeding in this garden, under
the yoke of holy obedience, clothed in the light of living faith, and with
good and holy works--for faith without works is dead. This is the common
hunger and desire of that whole body. But now I say and will that thou
grow yet more in hunger and desire, and hold thee ready to lay down thy
life, if need be, in especial, in the mystical body of Holy Church, for
the reform of My Bride. For when she is reformed, the profit of the whole
world will follow. How? Because through darkness, and ignorance, and self-
love, and impurities, and swollen pride, darkness and death are born in
the souls of her subjects. So I summon thee and my other servants to
labour in desire, in vigils, and prayer, and every other work, according
to the skill which I give you; for I tell thee that the labour and service
offered her are so pleasing to me, that not only they shall be rewarded in
My servants who have a sincere and holy intention, but also in the
servants of the world, who often serve her through self-love, though also
many a time through reverence for Holy Church. Wherefore I tell thee that
there is no one who serves her reverently--so good I hold this service--
who shall not be rewarded; and I tell thee that such shall not see eternal
death. So, likewise, in those who wrong and serve ill and irreverently My
Bride, I shall not let that wrong go unpunished, by one way or another."

Then, as she saw such greatness and generosity in the goodness of God, and
perceived what ought to be done to please Him more, the flame of desire so
increased that had it been possible for her to give her life for Holy
Church a thousand times a day, and from now till the final judgment day,
it seemed to her that it would be less than a drop of wine in the sea. And
so it really is.

I wish you, then, and summon you, to labour for her as you have always
done; yea, you are a pillar, who have placed yourself to support and help
this Bride. So you ought to be, as I said--so that neither tribulation nor
consolation should ever stir you. Nor because many contrary winds are
blowing to hinder those who walk in the way of truth, ought we for any
reason to look back. Therefore I said that I desired to see you a firm
pillar. Up, then, dearest and sweetest father: because it is our hour to
give for that Bride honour to God and labour to her. I beg you, by the
love of Christ crucified, to pray the holy father that he adopt zealously,
without negligence, every remedy which can be found consistent to his
conscience for the reform of Holy Church and peace to this great war which
is damning so many souls, since for all negligence and lukewarmness God
will rebuke Him most severely, and will demand the souls who through this
are perishing. Commend me to him; and I ask him humbly for his
benediction. I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God.
Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


The familiar but ever-noble theology with which this letter opens, leads
first to a severe description of the unworthy and mercenary man, which is
followed by a temperately wise discussion of the true use of worldly
pleasures and goods. "Whatever God has made is good and perfect," says
Catherine--"except sin, which was not made by Him, and so is not worthy of
love." The modern religious Epicureanism which would applaud this
sentiment would, however, be less contented with the sequel; for Catherine
never forgets the anti-modern position that, though possession be
legitimate to the Christian, it is, after all, "more perfect to renounce
than to possess," and that the man who has preserved true detachment of
mind towards this world's goods will, by inevitable logic, come to hunger,
sooner or later, for detachment in deed.

It is a curiously tranquil letter to have been written in trance. Whatever
the mysterious condition may have been, it evidently did not rob Catherine
of her mental sanity and sobriety. The Doctor of Laws to whom it was
addressed was a person of considerable importance in the public and legal
life of his time. One cannot help suspecting a personal bearing in the
severe description of the hard man--evidently a lawyer--who makes the poor
wait before giving them counsel: yet, perhaps, the suspicion is
unwarranted, and the letter carried to Misser Lorenzo nothing more
searching than a general account of the temptations to which his
profession was subject.

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

Dearest brother and 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 a lover and follower of truth and a despiser of
falsehood. But this truth cannot be possessed or loved if it is not known.
Who is Truth? God is the Highest and Eternal Truth. In whom shall we know
Him? In Christ sweet Jesus, for He shows us with His Blood the truth of
the Eternal Father. His truth toward us is this, that He created us in His
image and likeness to give us life eternal, that we might share and enjoy
His Good. But through man's sin this truth was not fulfilled in him, and
therefore God gave us the Word His Son, and imposed this obedience on Him,
that He should restore man to grace through much endurance, purging the
sin of man in His own Person, and manifesting His truth in His Blood. So
man knows, by the unsearchable love which he finds shown to him through
the Blood of Christ crucified, that God nor seeks nor wills aught but our
sanctification. For this end we were created; and whatever God gives or
permits to us in this life, He gives that we may be sanctified in Him. He
who knows this truth never jars with it, but always follows and loves it,
walking in the footsteps of Christ crucified. And as this sweet loving
Word, for our example and teaching, despised the world and all delights,
and chose to endure hunger and thirst, shame and reproach, even to the
shameful death on the Cross, for the honour of the Father and our
salvation, so does he who is the lover of the truth which he knows in the
light of most holy faith, follow this way and these footsteps. For without
this light it could not be known; but when a man has the light, he knows
it, and knowing it, loves it, and becomes a lover of what God loves, and
hates what God hates.

There is this difference between him who loves the truth and him who hates
it. He who hates the truth, lies in the darkness of mortal sin. He hates
what God loves, and loves what God hates. God hates sin, and the
inordinate joys and luxuries of the world, and such a man loves it all,
fattening himself on the world's wretched trifles, and corrupting himself
in every rank. If he has an office in which he ought to minister in some
way to his neighbour, he serves him only so far as he can get some good
for himself out of it, and no farther, and becomes a lover of himself.
Christ the Blessed gave His life for us, and such a man will not give one
word to serve his neighbour unless he sees it paid, and overpaid. If the
neighbour happens to be a poor man who cannot pay, he makes him wait
before telling him the truth, and often does not tell it to him at all,
but makes fun of him; and where he ought to be pitiful and a father of the
poor, he becomes cruel to his own soul because he wrongs the poor. But the
wretched man does not see that the Highest Judge will return to him
nothing else than what he receives from him, since every sin is justly
punished and every good rewarded. Christ embraced voluntary poverty and
was a lover of continence; the wretched man who has made himself a
follower and lover of falsehood does just the contrary; not only does he
fail to be content with what he has, or to refrain through love of virtue,
but he robs other people. Nor does he remain content in the state of
marriage, in which, if it is observed as it should be, a man can stay with
a good conscience; but he plunges into every wretchedness, like a brute
beast, without moderation, and as the pig rolls in filth, so does he in
the filth of impurity.

But we might say: "What shall I do, who have riches, and am in the state
of marriage, if these things bring damnation to my soul?" Dearest brother,
a man can save his soul and receive the life of grace into himself, in
whatever condition he may be; but not while he abides in guilt of mortal
sin. For every condition is pleasing to God, and He is the acceptor, not
of men's conditions, but of holy desire. So we may hold to these things
when they are held with a temperate will; for whatever God has made is
good and perfect, except sin, which was not made by Him, and therefore is
not worthy of love. A man can hold to riches and worldly place if he
likes, and he does not wrong God nor his own soul; but it would be greater
perfection if he renounced them, because there is more perfection in
renunciation than in possession. If he does not wish to renounce them in
deed, he ought to renounce and abandon them with holy desire, and not to
place his chief affections upon them, but upon God alone; and let him keep
these things to serve his own needs and those of his family, like a thing
that is lent and not like his own. So doing, he will never suffer pain
from any created thing; for a thing that is not possessed with love is
never lost with sorrow. So we see that the servants of the world, lovers
of falsehood, endure very great sufferings in their life, and bitter
tortures to the very end. What is the reason? The inordinate love they
have for themselves and for created things, which they love apart from
God. For the Divine Goodness has permitted that every inordinate affection
should be unendurable to itself.

Such a man as this always believes falsehood, because there is no
knowledge of truth in him. And he thinks to hold to the world and abide in
delights, to make a god of his body, and of the other things that he loves
immoderately a god, and he must leave them all. We see that either he
leaves them by dying, or God permits that they be taken from him first.
Every day we see it. For now a man is rich, and now poor; to-day he is
exalted in worldly state, and to-morrow he is cast down; now he is well,
and now ill. So all things are mutable, and are taken from us when we
think to clasp them firmly; or we are snatched away from them by death.

So you see that all things pass. Then, seeing that they pass, they should
be possessed with moderation in the light of reason, loved in such wise as
they should be loved. And he who holds them thus will not hold them with
the help of sin, but with grace; with generosity of heart, and not with
avarice; in pity for the poor, and not in cruelty; in humility, not in
pride; in gratitude, not in ingratitude: and will recognize that his
possessions come from his Creator, and not himself. With this same
temperate love he will love his children, his friends, his relatives, and
all other rational beings. He will hold the condition of marriage as
ordained, and ordained as a Sacrament; and will have in respect the days
commanded by Holy Church. He will be and live like a man, and not a beast;
and will be, not indeed ascetic, but continent and self-controlled. Such a
man will be a fruitful tree, that will bear the fruits of virtue, and will
be fragrant, shedding perfume although planted in the earth; and the seed
that issues from him will be good and virtuous.

So you see that you can have God in any condition; for the condition is
not what robs us of Him, but the evil will alone, which, when it is set on
loving falsehood, is ill-ordered and corrupts a man's every work. But if
he loves truth, he follows the footsteps of truth; so he hates what truth
hates and loves what truth loves, and then his every work is good and
perfect. Otherwise it would not be possible for him to share the life of
grace, nor would any work of his bear living fruit.

So, knowing no other way, I said that I desired to see you a lover and
follower of truth and despiser of falsehood; hating the devil the father
of lies, and your own lower nature, that follows such a parent; and loving
Christ crucified, who is Way, Truth and Life. For He who walks in Him
reaches the Light, and is clothed in the shining garment of charity,
wherein are all virtues found. Which charity and love unspeakable, when it
is in the soul, holds itself not content in the common state, but desires
to advance further. Thus from mental poverty it desires to advance to
actual, and from mental continence to actual; to observe the Counsels as
well as the Commandments of Christ; for it begins to feel aversion for the
dunghill of the world. And because it sees the difficulty of being in
filth and not defiled, it longs with breathless desire and burning charity
to free itself by one act from the world so far as possible. If it is not
able to escape in deed, it studies to be perfect in its own place. At
least, it does not lack desire.

Then, dearest brother, let us sleep no more, but awaken from slumber. Open
the eye of the mind in the light of faith, to know, to love, to follow
that truth which you shall know through the Blood of the humble and loving
Lamb. You shall know that Blood in the knowledge of yourself, that the
face of your soul may be washed therein. And it is ours, and none can take
it from us unless we choose. Then be negligent no more; but like a vase,
fill yourself with the Blood of Christ crucified. I say no more. Remain in
the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


These informal little notes were written probably in the autumn of 1377
while Catherine was making a visit to the feudal stronghold of the
Salimbeni family, about twenty-three miles from Siena, among the foothills
of Monte Amiata. The young "populana" was admitted to the intimate
counsels of these great nobles, leaders of the opposition to the popular
government with which her own sympathies would naturally have lain. It
must have been a new experience to the town-bred girl--life in this
castle-eyrie among the hills, where mercenary troops and rude peasants
thronged the courtyard, and manners, one surmises, must have been at once
more artful and more brutal than among her bourgeois friends. We hear of
picturesque scenes, where men and women afflicted of demons are brought
writhing into her presence, to be welcomed, cared for, and healed. She had
the comfort of the company of several confessors; the first of these
letters shows them labouring with homely eagerness, quaintly expressed,
for the religious welfare of the wild soldiery. Absorbed, as ever, in the
inward life, Catherine was as tranquilly at home here in the mountains,
among the great ladies of the Salimbeni family, as in Siena or in the
papal court.

Meantime, good Monna Lapa grumbled as of old over the separation from her
daughter; and evidently Catherine's sister mantellate were also
disconsolate. She writes them very gently, very simply, trying to
reconcile them by the reminder of like sorrows borne by that first group
of disciples to whom she and her friends loved to compare themselves. To
her beloved Alessa she expresses herself more freely, giving just the
details of health and mental state that intimate love would crave. These
were sad days in her private life; for she had parted from Fra Raimondo,
who had been called to other service. Her words to Alessa reflect her
sadness, and also her entire submission. It is noticeable that she
respects the secrets of her hosts with dignity, giving no hint on the
matters that occupied her beyond the reticent statement to her mother: "I
believe that if you knew the circumstances you yourself would send me

This is not the only time by any means that Catherine had to meet similar
complaints. Wherever she bore her strong vitality, limitless sympathy and
peculiar charm, new friends gathered around her and clung to her with an
unreasoning devotion that cried out in exacting hunger for her presence,
and often proved to her a real distress. For Catherine, swiftly responsive
as she was to individual affections, perfect in loyalty as she always
showed herself, moved, nevertheless, in a region where unswerving service
of a larger duty might at any moment force her to refuse to gratify, at
least in outward ways, the personal claim. This was very hard for her
friends to understand; one is sorry for them. At the same time, one feels
more than a little pathos in her efforts to bring these simpler minds into
understanding sympathy with that high sense of vocation which underlay all
her doings: "Know, dearest mother, that I, your poor little daughter, am
not put on earth for anything else than this; to this my Creator has
chosen me. I know you are content that I should obey Him." But Monna Lapa
never was quite content--not to the very end.


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

Dearest mother and 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 you so clothed in the flames of divine charity
that you may bear all pain and torment, hunger and thirst, persecution and
injury, derision, outrage and insult, and everything else, with true
patience; learning from the Lamb suffering and slain, who ran with such
burning love to the shameful death of the Cross. Do you then keep in
companionship with sweetest Mother Mary, who, in order that the holy
disciples might seek the honour of God and the salvation of souls,
following the footsteps of her sweet Son, consents that they should leave
her presence, although she loved them supremely: and she stays as if
alone, a guest and a pilgrim. And the disciples, who loved her beyond
measure, yet leave her joyously, enduring every grief for the honour of
God, and go out among tyrants, enduring many persecutions. And if you ask
them: "Why do you carry yourselves so joyously, and you are going away
from Mary?" they would reply: "Because we have lost ourselves, and are
enamoured of the honour of God and the salvation of souls." Well, dearest
mother and daughter, I want you to do just so. If up to now you have not
been, I want you to be now, kindled in the fire of divine charity, seeking
always the honour of God and the salvation of souls. Otherwise you would
fall into the greatest grief and tribulation, and would drag me down into
them. Know, dearest mother, that I, your poor little daughter, am not put
on earth for anything else; to this my Creator has elected me. I know you
are content that I should obey Him. I beg you that if I seemed to stay
away longer than pleased your will, you will be contented; for I cannot do
otherwise. I believe that if you knew the circumstances you yourself would
send me here. I am staying to find help if I can for a great scandal. It
is no fault of the Countess, though; therefore do you all pray God and
that glorious Virgin to send us a good result. And do you, Cecca, and
Giustina, drown yourselves in the Blood of Christ crucified; for now is
the time to prove the virtue in your soul. God give His sweet and eternal
benediction to you all. I say no more. 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 daughters 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 obedient daughters, united in true and perfect charity.
This obedience and love will dissipate all your suffering and gloom; for
obedience removes the thing which gives us suffering, that is our own
perverse will, which is wholly destroyed in true holy obedience. Gloom is
scattered and consumed by the impulse of charity and unity, for God is
true charity and highest eternal light. He who has this true light for his
guide, cannot miss the road. Therefore, dearest daughters, I want, since
it is so necessary, that you should study to lose your own will and to
gain this light.

This is the doctrine which I remember has always been given you, although
you have learned little of it. That which is not done, I beg you to do,
dearest daughters. If you did not, you would abide in continual
sufferings, and would drag poor me, who deserve every suffering, into them

We must do for the honour of God as the holy apostles did. When they had
received the Holy Spirit, they separated from one another, and from that
sweet mother Mary. Although it was their greatest delight to stay
together, yet they gave up their own delight, and sought the honour of God
and the salvation of souls. And although Mary sends them away from her,
they do not therefore hold that love is diminished, or that they are
deprived of the affection of Mary. This is the rule that we must take to
ourselves. I know that my presence is a great consolation to you.
Nevertheless, as truly obedient, you should not seek your own consolation,
for the honour of God and the salvation of souls: and do not give place to
the devil, who makes it look to you as if you were deprived of the love
and devotion which I bear to your souls and bodies. Were it otherwise,
true love would not be built on you. I assure you that I do not love you
otherwise than in God. Why do you fall into such unregulated suffering
over things which must necessarily be so? Oh, what shall we do when it
shall befit us to do great deeds if we fail so in the little ones? We
shall have to be together or separated according as things shall befall.
Just now our sweet Saviour wills and permits that we be separated for His

You are in Siena, and Cecca and Grandma are in Montepulciano. Frate
Bartolomeo and Frate Matteo will be there and have been there. Alessa and
Monna Bruna are at Monte Giove, eighteen miles from Montepulciano; they
are with the Countess and Monna Lisa. Frate Raimondo and Frate Tommaso and
Monna Tomma and Lisa and I are at Rocca among the Free-lances. And so many
incarnate demons are being eaten up that Frate Tommaso says that his
stomach aches over it! With all this they cannot be satisfied, and they
are hungry for more, and find work here at a good price. Pray the Divine
Goodness to give them big, sweet and bitter mouthfuls! Think that the
honour of God and the salvation of souls is being sweetly seen. You ought
not to want or desire anything else. You could do nothing more pleasing to
the highest eternal will of God, and to mine, than feeling thus. Up, my
daughters, begin to sacrifice your own wills to God! Don't be ready always
to stay nurselings--for you should get the teeth of your desire ready to
bite hard and musty bread, if needs be.

I say no more. Bind you in the sweet bands of love, so you will show that
you are daughters--not otherwise. Comfort you in Christ sweet Jesus, and
comfort all the other daughters. We will come back as soon as we can,
according as it shall please the Divine Goodness. 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 daughter 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 follow the doctrine of the Spotless Lamb with a free
heart, divested of every creature-love, clothed only with the Creator, in
the light of most holy faith. For without the light thou couldst not walk
in the straight way of the Slain and Spotless Lamb. Therefore my soul
desires to see thee and the others clean and virile, and not blown about
by every wind that may befall. Beware of looking back, but go on steadily,
holding in mind the teaching that has been given thee. Be sure to enter
every day anew into the garden of thy soul with the light of faith to pull
up every thorn that might smother the seed of the teaching given thee, and
to turn over the earth; that is, every day do thou divest thy heart. It is
necessary to divest it over and over; for many a time I have seen people
who seemed to have divested themselves, whom I have found clothed in sin,
by evidence rather of deed than of words. The opposite might appear by
their words, but deeds showed their affections. I want, then, that thou
shouldst divest thy heart in truth, following Christ crucified. And let
silence abide on thy lips. I have taken note; for I believe that the other
woman holds to it very little. I am very sorry for that. If it is so, as
it seems to me, my Creator wills that I should bear it, and I am content
to do so: but I am not content with the wrong done to God.

Thou didst write me that God seemed to constrain thee in thy orisons to
pray for me. Thanks be to the Divine Goodness, who shows such unspeakable
love to my poor soul! Thou didst tell me to write thee if I were suffering
and had my usual infirmities at this time. I reply that God has cared for
me marvellously, within and without. He has cared very much for my body
this Advent, causing the pains to be diverted by writing; it is true that,
by the goodness of God, they have been worse than they used to be. If He
made them worse, He saw to it that Lisa was cured as soon as Frate Santi
fell ill--for he has been at the point of death. Now, almost miraculously,
he has grown so much better that he can be called cured. But apparently my
Bridegroom, Eternal Truth, has wished to put me to a very sweet and
genuine test, inward and outward, in the things which are seen and those
which are not--the latter beyond count the greater. But while He was
testing us, He has cared for us so gently as tongue could not tell.
Therefore I wish pains to be food to me, tears my drink, sweat my
ointment. Let pains make me fat, let pains cure me, let pains give me
light, let pains give me wisdom, let pains clothe my nakedness, let pains
strip me of all self-love, spiritual and temporal. The pain of lacking
consolations from my fellow-creatures has called me to consider my own
lack of virtue, recognizing my imperfection, and the very perfect light of
Sweet Truth, who gives and receives, not material things, but holy
desires: Him who has not withdrawn His goodness toward me for my little
light or knowledge, but has had regard only to Himself, the One supremely

I beg thee by the love of Jesus Christ crucified, dearest my daughter, do
not slacken in prayer: nay, redouble it--for I have greater need thereof
than thou seest--and do thou thank the Goodness of God for me. And pray
Him to give me grace that I may give my life for Him, and to take away, if
so please Him, the burden of my body. For my life is of very little use to
anyone else; rather is it painful and oppressive to every person, far and
near, by reason of my sins. May God by His mercy take from me such great
faults, and for the little time that I have to live, may He make me live
impassioned by the love of virtue! And may I in pain offer before Him my
dolorous and suffering desires for the salvation of all the world and the
reformation of Holy Church! Joy, joy in the Cross with me! So may the
Cross be a bed where the soul may rest: a table where may be tasted
heavenly food, the fruit of patience with quietness and assurance.

Thou didst send to me saying ... I was consoled by this thing, both by her
life, hoping that she is correcting herself and living with less vanity of
heart than she has done till now, and also by the children's having been
brought to the light of Holy Baptism. May God give them His sweetest
grace, and grant them death if they are not to be good! Bless them, and
comfort her, in Christ sweet Jesus: and tell her to live in the holy and
sweet fear of God, and to recognize the grace she has received from God,
which has not been small but very great. Were she to be ungrateful, it
would much displease God, and perhaps He would not leave her unpunished.

I commend to thee ... I have had no news at all of them, I do not know
why. The will of God be done! Our Saviour has put me on the Island, and
the winds beat from every side. Let everyone rejoice in Christ crucified,
however far one from the other. Shut thee into the house of self-
knowledge. I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet
Jesus, Jesus Love.


There is no evidence as to the date of this letter, but the tone is such
that Catherine's latest editor is probably right in placing it after the
return of the Pope to Italy. It suggests that a long relation is drawing
to a close, and closing, so far as Catherine is concerned, in
disappointment. Never, in her earlier relations with Gregory, would she
have gone such lengths as here, in her amazing hint that he would better
resign the Papacy if he finds himself unable to sustain the moral burdens
it imposes. The Pope is at Rome, but he has changed his sky and not his
mind. Catherine's letter is a brief and powerful summary of oft-reiterated
pleas. In the solemnity and authority of its adjurations, in the
distinctness of its accusations, it is surely one of the most surprising
epistles ever written by a devout and wholly faithful subject to her
acknowledged head. Such a letter proceeds, indeed, from a spiritual region
where all earthly distinctions--ecclesiastical as well as intellectual or
social--are lost to sight, and the illiterate daughter of the dyer can
rebuke and exhort as by her natural right him whom with unwavering faith
she believed to be the God-appointed father of all Christian people.
Catherine's patience, one feels, is near the breaking point: and heart-
break for her is in truth not many years away.

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

Most holy and sweet father, your poor unworthy daughter Catherine in
Christ sweet Jesus, commends herself to you in His precious Blood: with
desire to see you a manly man, free from any fear or fleshly love toward
yourself, or toward any creature related to you in the flesh; since I
perceive in the sweet Presence of God that nothing so hinders your holy,
good desire and so serves to hinder the honour of God and the exaltation
and reform of Holy Church, as this. Therefore, my soul desires with
immeasurable love that God by His infinite mercy may take from you all
passion and lukewarmness of heart, and re-form you another man, by forming
in you anew a burning and ardent desire; for in no other way could you
fulfil the will of God and the desire of His servants. Alas, alas,
sweetest "Babbo" mine, pardon my presumption in what I have said to you
and am saying; I am constrained by the Sweet Primal Truth to say it. His
will, father, is this, and thus demands of you. It demands that you
execute justice on the abundance of many iniquities committed by those who
are fed and pastured in the garden of Holy Church; declaring that brutes
should not be fed with the food of men. Since He has given you authority
and you have assumed it, you should use your virtue and power: and if you
are not willing to use it, it would be better for you to resign what you
have assumed; more honour to God and health to your soul would it be.

Another demand that His will makes is this: He wills that you make peace
with all Tuscany, with which you are at strife; securing from all your
wicked sons who have rebelled against you whatever is possible to secure
without war--but punishing them as a father ought to punish a son who has
wronged him. Moreover, the sweet goodness of God demands from you that you
give full authority to those who ask you to make ready for the Holy
Crusade--that thing which appears impossible to you, and possible to the
sweet goodness of God, who has ordained it, and wills that so it be.
Beware, as you hold your life dear, that you commit no negligence in this,
nor treat as jests the works of the Holy Spirit, which are demanded from
you because you can do them. If you want justice, you can execute it. You
can have peace, withdrawing from the perverse pomps and delights of the
world, preserving only the honour of God and the due of Holy Church.
Authority also you have to give peace to those who ask you for it. Then,
since you are not poor but rich--you who bear in your hand the keys of
Heaven, to whom you open it is open, and to whom you shut it is shut--if
you do not do this, you would be rebuked by God. I, if I were in your
place, should fear lest divine judgment come upon me. Therefore I beg you
most gently on behalf of Christ crucified to be obedient to the will of
God, for I know that you want and desire no other thing than to do His
will, that this sharp rebuke fall not upon you: "Cursed be thou, for the
time and the strength entrusted to thee thou hast not used." I believe,
father, by the goodness of God, and also taking hope from your holiness,
that you will so act that this will not fall upon you.

I say no more. Pardon me, pardon me; for the great love which I bear to
your salvation, and my great grief when I see the contrary, makes me speak
so. Willingly would I have said it to your own person, fully to unburden
my conscience. When it shall please your Holiness that I come to you, I
will come willingly. So do that I may not appeal to Christ crucified from
you; for to no other can I appeal, for there is no greater on earth.
Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. I ask you humbly for your
benediction. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


This letter confirms what history elsewhere indicates--that Gregory, after
his return to Italy, turned against Catherine. She no longer addresses her
"dear Babbo" personally, with the old happy familiarity; rather, she sends
through Fra Raimondo formal and almost tremulous messages to "his
Holiness, the Vicar of Christ." Raimondo, apparently from his connection
with her, is evidently included in the papal displeasure. Catherine writes
to give him courage and comfort; in her touching advice as to the best way
of preparing one's self to meet contentions and injustice, we may
recognize the secret source of her own rare self-control.

Catherine's attitude toward the angered Pope is a compound of contrition
and firmness. No words could express swifter readiness to accept rebuke or
a more passionate humility: none could more vigorously maintain the
unwelcome convictions which had given offence. There are various surmises
as to the exact occasion of the misunderstanding to which this letter
refers: were we to add one, we might suspect that the audacity of the
preceding letter had been too much, even for Gregory. But the general
situation speaks for itself. Gregory was strong enough, under her
inspiration, to make the great physical and moral effort of returning to
Italy: he was, as we have seen, not strong enough to cope with what he
found there. Enfeebled by ill-health, hampered by his lack of knowledge of
Italian, rendered desperate by the difficulties he encountered, it is
small wonder that, as many another weak nature would have done, he turned
in rage or cold displeasure against the instrument of his return. There is
a story that Gregory on his deathbed warned the bystanders against
Catherine, and whether it be true or not, it suggests the contemporary
impression as to his tone toward her during his last days. Here is sad
ending to a relation that during its earlier phases possessed a singular
beauty. How sorely Catherine must have been hurt we may well imagine. Her
brief triumph was all turned to bitterness: less, we may be sure, from her
personal loss of the Pope's confidence--though she was human enough to
feel this keenly--than from the utter failure of the hopes she had built
on his return.

In this letter her genuine self-abasement before Gregory's displeasure
changes with dramatic suddenness to another tone. The accuser becomes the
judge once more, and speaks with the old authority: "God demands that you
do this--as you know that you were told." Her personal feeling for the man
breaks forth in the appeal: "To whom shall I have recourse should you
abandon me? Who would help me?" But in the same breath comes her
magnificent assurance, that though she may offend Christ's Vicar, the Head
of the Church, she may yet flee with confidence to Christ Himself, and
rest secure upon the bosom of His Bride.

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 desire to see you a true combatant against the wiles and
vexations of the devil, and the malice and persecution of men, and against
your own fleshly self-love, which is an enemy that, unless a man drives it
away by virtue and holy hate, prevents him from ever being strong in the
other battles which we encounter every day. For self-love weakens us, and
therefore it is imperative that we drive it away with the strength of
virtue, which we shall gain in the unspeakable love that God has shown us,
through the Blood of His only-begotten Son. This love, drawn from the
divine love, gives us light and life; light, to know the truth when
necessary to our salvation and to win great perfection, and to endure with
true patience and fortitude and constancy until death--for by such
fortitude, won from the light that makes us know the truth, we win the
life of divine grace. Drink deep, then, in the Blood of the Spotless Lamb,
and be a faithful servant, not faithless, to your Creator. And fear not,
nor turn back, for any battle or gloom that may come upon you, but
persevere in faith till death; for well you know that perseverance will
give you the fruit of your labours.

I have understood from a certain servant of God who holds you in continual
prayer before Him, that you have met very great battles, and that gloom
has fallen upon your mind through the crafts and wiles of the devil, who
wishes to make you see wrong as right and right as wrong; this he does in
order that you may fail in your going and not reach the goal. But comfort
you, for God has provided and shall provide, and His providence shall not
be lacking. Be sure that in all things you have recourse to Mary,
embracing the holy Cross, and never let yourself fall into confusion of
mind, but sail in a stormy sea in the ship of divine mercy. I understand:
if from men religious or secular, even in the mystical body of Holy
Church, you have suffered persecution or displeasure, or have been visited
with the indignation of the Vicar of Christ, either on your own account,
or if you have had something to bear on my account with all these people--
you are not to resist, but bear it patiently, leaving at once, and going
into your cell, there to know yourself in holy meditation; reflecting that
God is making you worthy to endure for the love of truth, and to be
persecuted for His Name, deeming yourself in true humility worthy of
punishment and unworthy to gain results. And do all the things that you
have to do prudently, holding God before your eyes; do and say what you
have to say and do in the Presence of God and of your own thought with the
help of holy prayer. There shall you find the Master, the Holy Spirit,
rich in clemency, who shall pour upon you a light of wisdom that shall
make you discern and choose what shall be to his honour. This is the
doctrine given to us by the Sweet Primal Truth, caring for our need with
measureless love.

If it happened, dearest father, that you found yourself in the presence of
his Holiness the Vicar of Christ, our very sweet and holy father, humbly
commend me to him. I hold myself in fault before his Holiness for much
ignorance and negligence which I have committed against God, and for
disobedience against my Creator, who summoned me to cry aloud with
passionate desire, and to cry before Him in prayer, and to put myself in
word and in bodily presence close to His Vicar. In all possible ways I
have committed measureless faults, on account of which, yes, on account of
my many iniquities, I believe that he has suffered many persecutions, he
and Holy Church. Wherefore if he complains of me he is right, and right in
punishing me for my defects. But tell him that up to the limits of my
power I shall strive to correct my faults, and to fulfil more perfectly
his obedience. So I trust by the divine goodness that He will turn the
eyes of His mercy upon the Bride of Christ and His Vicar, and upon me,
freeing me from my defects and ignorance; but upon His Bride, by giving
her the refreshment of peace and renewal, with much endurance (for in no
way without toils can be uprooted the many thorny faults that choke the
garden of Holy Church), and that God will give him grace in those parts
where he wants to be a manly man, and not to look back, for any toil or
persecution that may befall him from his wicked sons; constant and
persevering, let him not avoid weariness, but let him throw himself like a
lamb into the midst of the wolves, with hungry desire for the honour of
God and the salvation of souls, putting far from him care for temporal
things, and watching over spiritual things alone. If he does so, as divine
goodness demands of him, the lamb will lord it over the wolves, and the
wolves will turn into lambs; and thus we shall see the glory and praise of
the name of God, the good and peace of Holy Church. In no other way can
these be won; not through war, but through peace and benignity, and such
holy spiritual punishment as a father should inflict on a son who does

Alas, alas, alas, most holy father! The first day that you came to your
own place, you should have done so. I hope in the goodness of God and in
your holiness that what is not done you will do. In this way both
temporalities and spiritualities are won back. God demanded that you do
this--as you know that you were told--that you care for the reformation of
Holy Church, punishing its sins and establishing good shepherds; and that
you make holy peace with your wicked sons in the best way and most
pleasing to God that could be done; so that then you might see to
uplifting with your arms the standard of the most holy Cross against the
infidels. I believe that our negligence and our not doing what could be
done--not cruelly nor quarrelsomely, but in peace and benignity--(always
punishing a man who has done wrong, not in proportion to his deserts, for
he could not endure what he deserves, but in proportion to what the sick
man is in a condition to bear)--are, perhaps, the reason why such
disaster and loss and irreverence toward Holy Church and her ministers has
befallen. And I fear that unless a remedy is found by doing what has been
left undone, our sins may deserve so much that we shall see greater
misfortunes; such I say as would grieve us much more than to lose temporal
possessions. Of all these evils and sorrows, wretched I am the cause,
through my little virtue and my great disobedience.

Most holy father, look in the light of reason and truth at your
displeasure against me, not as punishment, but as displeasure. To whom
shall I have recourse should you abandon me? Who would help me? To whom do
I flee, should you cast me out? My persecutors pursue me, and I flee to
you, and to the other sons and servants of God. Should you abandon me,
assuming displeasure and wrath against me, I will hide me in the wounds of
Christ crucified, whose Vicar you are: and I know that He will receive me,
for He wills not the death of a sinner. And, when I am received by Him,
you will not drive me out; nay, we shall abide in our own place to fight
manfully with the weapons of virtue for the sweet Bride of Christ. In her
I wish to end my life, with tears, with sweats, with sighs, giving my
blood and the marrow of my bones. And should all the world drive me out, I
will not care, reposing with plaints and great endurance on the breast of
that sweet Bride. Pardon, most holy father, all my ignorance, and the
wrong that I have done to God and to your Holiness. It is Truth that
excuses me and sets me free; Truth Eternal. Humbly I ask your benediction.

To you, dearest father (Raimondo), I say: when it is possible to you, keep
a manly heart in the presence of his Holiness, without any pain or servile
fear; remain first a while in your cell, in the presence of Mary and of
the most holy Cross, in holy and humble prayer, in true knowledge of
yourself, with living faith and will to endure; and then go (to the Pope)
in security. And do what you can for the honour of God and the salvation
of souls, to the point of death. Announce to him what I write you in this
letter as the Holy Spirit shall guide you. I say no more. Remain in the
holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


In March, 1378, Gregory died, and was succeeded by the Archbishop of Bari,
who took the name of Urban VI. The sensitive, cultured, vacillating
Frenchman gave place to a Neapolitan of coarse physique--a man personally
virtuous, but, as history shows us, extraordinarily harsh and violent in
disposition. "It seems," the Prior of the Island of Gorgona wrote with
alarming candour to Catherine, "that our new Christ on earth is a terrible

Catherine was at Florence at the time--having been sent thither by
Gregory, who, however alienated from her personally, seems till the end to
have valued her services. The following is the first letter from her to
Urban which we possess. It is evident that she has as yet little knowledge
of the new Pope at first hand. She writes to him in much the same strain
as that in which she was accustomed to address his predecessor; only the
sense of a new hearer inspires her, after the rather dull opening of the
letter, with fresh fervour in recapitulating the sins and woes of the
Church. Possibly, also, there is a little more insistence than usual on
the plea that mercy temper justice, in the case of the rebellious Tuscan
cities. The sensible policy for such a situation could hardly be better
summed up than in her concise phrase: "Receive from a sick man what he can
give you."

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

Most holy and dear 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 you founded upon true and perfect charity, so that,
like a good shepherd, you may lay down your life for your sheep. And
truly, most holy father, only he who is founded upon charity is ready to
die for the love of God and the salvation of souls: because he is free
from self-love. For he who abides in self-love is not ready to give his
life; and not to speak of his life, apparently he is not willing to bear
the least little pain: for he is always afraid for himself, lest he lose
his bodily life and his private consolations. So he does whatever he may
do imperfectly and corruptly, because his chief impulse, through which he
acts, is corrupt. In whatever state he may be, shepherd or subject, he
shows little virtue. But the shepherd who is established in true charity
does not do so; his every work is good and perfect, because his impulse is
absolutely one with the perfection of divine charity. Such a man as this
fears neither the devil nor his fellow-beings, but only his Creator; he
does not mind the detractions of the world, nor shames, nor insults, nor
jests, nor the criticisms of his subordinates; who take offence, and turn
to criticizing when they are reproved by their prelate. But like a manly
man, clothed in the fortitude of charity, he does not care.

Nor, therefore, does he suppress the flame of holy desire, nor cast from
him the pearl of justice, lucid and one with mercy, which he bears upon
his breast. Were justice without mercy, it would abide in the shadows of
cruelty, and would turn into injustice. And mercy without justice toward
one's subordinate would be like ointment on a wound that ought to be
cauterized: if ointment is applied without cauterizing it rots more than
it heals. But when both are joined they give life to the prelate who uses
them, and health to the subject if he is not a member of the devil,
entirely unwilling to correct himself. However, if the subject failed to
correct himself a thousand times over, the prelate ought not to give up
correcting him, and his virtue will be none the less because that wicked
man does not profit by it. In this way works the pure and clean charity of
a soul that cares for itself not for its own sake, but for God, and seeks
God for the glory and praise of His name, in so far as it sees that He is
worthy of being loved for His infinite goodness--nor seeks its neighbour
for its own sake, but for God, wishing to render him that service which it
cannot render to God. For it recognizes that He is our God, who has no
need of us. Therefore it studies with great zeal to be useful to its
neighbour, and especially to the subjects committed to it. And it does not
draw back from pursuing the salvation of their souls and bodies for any
ingratitude found in them, nor for the threats or flatteries of man; but,
in truth, clothed in the wedding garment, follows the doctrine of the
Spotless Humble Lamb, that gentle and good Shepherd who, as one enamoured,
ran for our salvation to the shameful death of the most holy Cross. The
unspeakable love which the soul has conceived for Christ crucified does
all this. Most holy father, God has placed you as a shepherd over all His
sheep who belong to the whole Christian religion; He has placed you as the
minister of the Blood of Christ crucified, whose Vicar you are; and He
placed you in a time in which wickedness abounds more among your inferiors
than it has done for a long time, both in the body of Holy Church, and in
the universal body of the Christian religion. Therefore it is extremely
necessary for you to be established in perfect charity, wearing the pearl
of justice, as I said; that you may not mind the world, nor poor people
used to evil, nor any injuries of theirs; but manfully correct them, like
a true knight and just shepherd, uprooting vices and implanting virtues,
ready to lay down your life if needs be. Sweetest father, the world cannot
bear any more; vices are so abundant, especially among those who were put
in the garden of Holy Church to be fragrant flowers, shedding the
fragrance of virtue; and we see that they abound in wretched, hateful
vices, so that they make the whole world reek! Oh me! where is the purity
of heart and perfect charity which should make the incontinent continent
by contact with them? It is quite the contrary: many a time the continent
and the pure are led by their impurities to try incontinence. Oh me! where
is the generosity of charity, and the care of souls, and distribution to
the poor and to the good of the Church, and their necessities? You know
well that men do quite the contrary. Oh me miserable! With grief I say it
--your sons nourish themselves on the wealth they receive by ministering
the Blood of Christ, and are not ashamed of being as money-changers,
playing with those most sacred anointed hands of yours, you Vicar of
Christ: without speaking of the other wretched deeds which they commit. Oh
me! where is that deep humility with which to confound that pride of
sensuality of theirs, by which in their great avarice they commit
simonies, buying benefices with gifts, or flatteries, or money, dissolute
and vain adornments, not as clerics, but worse than seculars! Oh me, sweet
my Babbo, bring us a remedy! And give refreshment to the desperate desires
of the servants of God, who die and cannot die. They wait with great
desire that you as a true shepherd should put your hand to correcting
these things, not only with words but with deeds, while the pearl of
justice, joined to mercy, shines on your breast; correcting in truth,
without any servile fear, those who nourish them at the breast of the
sweet Bride of Christ, the ministers of the Blood.

But truly, most holy father, I do not see how this can be well done if you
do not make over anew the garden of your Bride, stocking it with good
virtuous plants; taking pains to choose a troop of very holy men, in whom
you find virtue and no fear of death. Do not aim at grandeur, but let them
be shepherds who rule their flocks with zeal. And a troop of good
cardinals, who may be upright columns of yours, helping you to bear the
weight of many burdens, with divine help. Oh, how blessed will be my soul
then, when I shall see that which is hers given back to the Bride of
Christ, and those nourished at her breast regarding not their own good,
but the glory and praise of the Name of God, and feeding on the food of
souls at the table of the holy Cross. I have no question that then your
lay subjects will correct themselves--for they will not be able to help
it, constrained by the holy and pure life of the clergy. We are not, then,
to sleep over it, but manfully and without negligence to do what you can,
even unto death, for the glory and praise of the Name of God.

Next I beg you, and constrain you by the love of Christ crucified, as to
those sheep who have left the fold--I believe, for my sins--that by the
love of that Blood of which you are made minister, you delay not to
receive them in mercy, and with your benignity and holiness force their
hardness; give them the good of bringing them back into the fold, and if
they do not ask it in true and perfect humility, let your Holiness fulfil
their imperfection. Receive from a sick man what he can give you. Oh me,
oh me, have mercy on so many souls that perish! Do not consider the
scandal which occurred in this city, in which surely the devils of hell
busied themselves, to hinder the peace and quiet of souls and bodies: but
Divine Goodness saw to it that no great harm came from the great evil, but
your sons pacified themselves, and now ask of you the oil of mercy. Grant
that it seems to you, most holy father, that they do not ask it in those
conciliatory ways nor with that heartfelt distaste for the sin they
committed which they should, as it would please your Holiness to have
them--yet, oh me, do not give up! For they will make better sons than
other people. Oh me, Babbo mine, I do not want to stay here any longer! Do
with me then what you will. Show me this grace and favour, poor wretch
that I am, knocking at your door. Do not deny me the easy little things
that I ask you for your sons; so that, having made peace, you may raise
the standard of the most holy Cross. For you see well that the infidels
have come to summon you. I hope by the sweet goodness of God that He will
fill you with His burning charity, so that you shall know the loss of
souls, and how much you are bound to love them: and so you shall increase
in eager zeal to set them free from the hands of the devil, and shall seek
to heal the mystical body of Holy Church, and the body of the universal
Christian religion; and especially to reconcile your sons, winning them
with benignity, with as much use of the rod of justice as they are fit to
bear, and no more. I am certain that unless we have the virtue of charity,
this will not be done; and therefore I said that I wished to see you
established in true and perfect charity. Not that I do not believe that
you are in charity, but because we can grow in the perfection of charity
since we are always pilgrims and strangers in this life, I said that I
wished this perfection in you, that you feed it constantly with the flame
of holy desire, and shed it upon your subjects, like a good shepherd. I
beg you to do so. And I will stay, and labour till I die, in prayer and in
whatever way I can, for the honour of God and for your peace and that of
your sons.

I say no more to you. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Pardon my
presumption, most holy father; but love and grief are my excuse before
your Holiness. I ask you humbly for your benediction. Sweet Jesus, Jesus


Catherine turned without difficulty from public cares to the needs and
problems of the little group of disciples in the restricted life of Siena.
To her eyes, there was no great nor small; the one drama was as important
as the other, since both were God's appointed schools of character. She
was, as we have already seen, wise in the lore of Christian friendship.
How thoroughly she understood the tendencies likely to appear in a limited
group of good people, bound closely together in faith and life, these
letters, among others, bear witness. Not only in religious communities,
but wherever such a group exists, similar conditions arise. The life of
the affections becomes of leading importance; too often it is unregulated,
and runs to morbid extremes; on the other hand, the peculiarly provincial
temptation to carping mutual scrutiny as well as to overwrought
sensitiveness, is sure to be at play. All her life long Catherine combated
these dangers, in the strength at once of a large mind and of a gentle
heart. The first of these letters puts in beautiful form the ideal of a
truly consecrated affection. The second repeats her familiar warning
against a critical temper, and her favourite plea for that generous
tolerance which puts the highest possible construction on one's
neighbour's conduct. Tolerance, one surmises, was to her peculiarly swift
and lofty spirit one of the most difficult among the virtues. Yet, or
rather therefore, no one has ever presented more emphatically the relief
afforded by the great permission and command, "Judge not."



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 bound in the bands of charity, for I consider that without this
bond we cannot please God. This is the sweet sign by which the servants
and sons of Christ are recognized. But think, my sons, that this bond must
be clean, and not spotted by self-love. If thou lovest thy Creator, love
and serve Him in so far as He is highest and eternal good, worthy of being
loved, and not for thine own profit, for that would be a mercenary love,
like a miser who loves money because of his avarice. So let your love for
your neighbour be clean. Love, love one another; you are neighbours one of
the other. But be on your guard, for if your love were founded in your own
profit or in the private affection which you might have for one another,
it would not endure, but would fail, and your soul would find itself
empty. The love which is founded in God must be of such a sort that it has
to love with regard to virtue, and inasmuch as the friend is a creature
made in the image of God. For while delight in him whom I love, or profit
from him may grow less, if one abides in God love does not fail, because
one loves with regard to virtue and the honour of God, and not to one's
own personality. I say that if one abides in God, even if virtue should
fail in him who loves, yet love does not turn away. The love of the virtue
which is not there fails to be sure; but it does not fail in so far as a
man is a creature of God, His member, bound in the mystical body of the
Holy Church. Nay, there grows within one a love made up of great and true
compassion, and with desire he brings his friend to the birth, with tears
and sighs and continual prayers in the sweet Presence of God. Now this is
the affection which Christ left to His disciples, which never lessens or
grows languid, and is not impatient for any injury it receives; there is
no spirit of criticism in it nor displeasure, because it loves the friend,
not for himself, but for God. It does not judge nor want to judge the will
of men, but the will of its Creator, which seeks and wills naught but our
sanctification. And it joys in what God permits, of whatsoever kind it be,
since it seeks naught but the honour of its Creator and the salvation of
its neighbour. Truly may we say that such men are bound in the bond of
charity with the band which held God-and-Man fast and nailed on the wood
of the most holy and sweet Cross.

But think, sons mine, that you would never reach this perfect union did
you not hold as your object Christ crucified, and follow His footsteps.
For in Him you will find this love, who has loved you by grace and not by
duty. And because He loves by grace, He has never grown languid in His
love, neither for our ingratitude nor ignorance nor pride nor vanity, but
ever persevering, even to the shameful death of the Cross, freeing us from
death and giving us life. Now so do you, my sons, learn--learn from Him.
Love, love one another, with pure and holy love, in Christ sweet Jesus. I
say no more, because I hope to see you again soon, when it shall please
the divine goodness. 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 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 strong and persevering till the end of your life. For I
consider that without perseverance no one can please God, or receive the
crown of reward. He who perseveres is always strong, and fortitude makes
him persevere.

We have absolute need of the gift of fortitude, for we are besieged by
many foes. The world, with its delights and deceits; the devil, with many
vexing temptations, who lights upon the lips of men, making them say
insulting and critical things, and who often makes us lose our worldly
goods--and this he does solely to recall us from devoted charity to our
neighbour; the flesh, astir in our own senses, seeking to war against the
spirit. Yes, truly, all these foes of ours have besieged us; yet we need
feel no servile fear, because they are discomfited through the Blood of
the Spotless Lamb. We ought bravely to reply to the world and resist it,
disparaging its delights and honours, judging it to have in itself no
abiding stability whatever. It shows us long life, with youth a-blossom
and great riches; and they are all seen to be vanity, since from life we
come to death, from youth to age, from wealth to poverty; and thus we are
always running toward the goal of death. Therefore we need to open the eye
of the mind, to see how miserable he is who trusts in the world. In this
wise one will come to despise and hate what first he loved. To the wiles
of the devil we can reply manfully, seeing his weakness; for he can
conquer no one who does not wish to be conquered. One can reply to him
then with lively faith and hope, and with holy hatred of one's self. For
in such hate one will become patient toward every tempting vexation and
tribulation of the world, and will bear these things with true patience,
from what side soever they come, if one shall hate one's own fleshliness
and love to abide on the Cross with Christ crucified.

From living faith one will derive a will in accord with that of God, and
will quench in heart and mind the human instinct of judging. The will of
God alone shall judge, which seeks and wills naught but our
sanctification. In this wise one is not shocked at his neighbour and does
not criticize him. Nor does he pass judgment on a man who talks against
him: he condemns himself alone, seeing that it is the will of God which
permits such men to vex him for his good. Ah, how blessed is the soul
which clothes itself in a judgment so gentle! He does not condemn the
servants of this world who do him injury; nor does he condemn the servants
of God, wishing to drive them in his own way, as many presumptuous, proud
men do, who under cloak of the honour of God and the salvation of souls,
are shocked by the servants of God, and assume a critical attitude under
cover of this cloak, saying: "Such words do not please me." And so a man
becomes disturbed in himself, and also makes others disturbed with his
tongue, claiming that he speaks through the force of love--and so he
thinks he does. But if he will open his eyes, he will find the serpent of
presumption under a false aspect, which plays the judge, judging in its
own fashion, and not according to the mysteries and the holy and diverse
ways in which God works with His creatures. Let human pride be ashamed,
and consent to see that in the House of the Eternal Father are many
mansions. Let it not seek to impose a rule upon the Holy Spirit: for He is
the Rule itself, Giver of the Rule: nor let it measure Him who cannot be
measured. The true servant of God, arrayed in His highest eternal will,
will not do thus; nay, he will hold in reverence the ways and deeds and
habits of God's servants, since he judges them fixed not by man, but by
God. For, just because things are not pleasing to us and do not go
according to our habits, we ought to be predisposed to believe that they
are pleasing to God. We ought not to judge anything at all, nor can we,
except what is manifest and open sin. And even this the soul enamoured of
God and lost to itself does not assume to judge, except in displeasure for
the sin and wrong done to God; and with great compassion for the soul of
him who sins, eagerly willing to give itself to any torture for the
salvation of that soul.

Now I summon you to this perfection, dearest sons; do you study with true
and holy zeal to acquire it. And reflect that every stage in perfection
which you reach will advance you in this holy and true judgment, free from
offence or pain. So, on the contrary, false judgment betrays you into
every sort of pain, and fault-finding and ruinous faithlessness toward the
servants of God. All this proceeds from the personal passion and rooted
pride which impels us to judge the will of our fellow-man. So such a man
is always looking back, and does not persevere in gracious love of his
neighbour, and never has strong and persevering love. Nay, his is like the
imperfect love felt by the disciples of Christ before the Passion; for
they loved Him, rejoicing much in His presence; but because their love was
not founded in truth, but pleasure and self-indulgence were in it, it
failed when His presence was taken away; and they did not know how to bear
pain with Christ, but fled in fear. Beware, beware, lest this happen to
you. You rejoice much in the presence of a friend, and in absence you make
a fire of straw; for when the presence is taken away, every little wind
and rain quenches it, and nothing remains except the black smoke of a dark
conscience. All this happens because we have made ourselves judges of the
will of our fellows, and the habits and ways of the servants of God, not
according to His sweet will. Now no more thus, for love of Christ
crucified! but be faithful sons, strong and persevering in Christ sweet
Jesus. Thus shall you discomfit the temptation of the devil, and the words
which he says, lighting on the lips of men.

Our last enemy--that is, our miserable flesh with its sense-appetites--is
overcome by the flesh of Christ, scourged and nailed on the wood of the
most holy Cross, by mastering it with fast and vigil and continuous
prayer, with burning sweet and loving desire. Thus sweetly shall we
conquer and discomfit our foes by the power of the Blood of Christ. Thus
shall you fulfil His will and my desire, which grieves when it beholds
your imperfection. I hope by His infinite goodness that He will console my
desire in you. Therefore I beg that you be not negligent, but zealous; do
not shift about in the wind like a leaf, but be firm, stable, and
constant; loving one another with true brotherly charity, bearing one
another's faults. By this I shall perceive whether you love God and me,
who desire naught but to see you in true unity. Drown you in the Blood of
Christ crucified and hide you in His sweetest Wounds. I say no more.

Let the convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli be commended to you. And never
mind because I am not there, for good sons do more when the mother is not
present than when she is, because they want to show the love they have for
her, and to enter more fully into her favour.

I beg you, Sano, to read this letter to all the children. And do you all
pray God for us, that He grant us to complete what is begun to His honour
and the salvation of souls; for we wish no other desire nor work, in
despite of any who may wish to hinder it. Remain in the holy and sweet
grace of God. May God fill you with His sweetest favour. Sweet Jesus,
Jesus Love.


With all her longing to suffer for her faith, Catherine was only once, so
far as we know, exposed to physical violence. This was on the occasion of
which she is here speaking. She is still in Florence, faithful under the
new Pope as under the old to her efforts to bring about the passionately
desired peace. In a tumult in the disordered city, it came to pass that
her life was threatened, and she took refuge with her "famiglia," in a
garden without the walls. Hither her enemies pursued her, but as they drew
near, fell back of a sudden, awestruck, as she herself here tells us, by
her words and bearing. The danger was averted, and Catherine had met one
of the disappointments of her life. [Footnote: As she herself expresses
it, "The Eternal Bridegroom played a great joke on me."] There is an
almost childlike simplicity in her account of the inner side of the
experience. Nothing could be more genuine than her grief that the crown of
martyrdom was not granted her--few things more lovely than her confiding
account of the fine joys which the mere hope of martyrdom, brief and
frustrated though it were, awakened in her spirit. Nor can she know even
so supremely isolated an experience without insisting that it be shared by
those she loves, and returning thanks for the great mercy which her "dear
sons and daughters" have received.

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 you a faithful servant and bridegroom of truth, and of sweet
Mary, that we may never look back for any reason in the world, nor for any
tribulations which God might send you: but with firm hope, with the light
of most holy faith, pass through this stormy sea in all truthfulness; and
let us rejoice in endurance, not seeking our own glory, but the glory of
God and the salvation of souls, as the glorious martyrs did, who for the
sake of truth made them ready for death and for all torments, so that with
their blood, shed for love of the Blood, they built the walls of Holy
Church. Ah, sweet Blood, that dost raise the dead! Thou givest life, thou
dost dissolve the shadows that darken the minds of reasonable creatures,
and dost give us light! Sweet Blood, thou dost unite those who strive,
thou dost clothe the naked, thou dost feed the hungry and give to drink to
those who thirst for thee, and with the milk of thy sweetness thou dost
nourish the little ones who have made themselves small by true humility,
and innocent by true purity. Oh, holy Blood, who shall receive thee amiss?
The lovers of themselves, because they do not perceive thy fragrance.

So, dearest and sweetest father, let us divest us and clothe us in truth,
so we shall be faithful lovers. I tell you that today I will to begin
again, in order that my sins may not hold me back from such a good as it
is to give one's life for Christ crucified. For I see that in the past,
through my faults, this has been denied me. I had desired very much, with
a new intensity, increased in me beyond all custom, to endure without
fault for the honour of God and the salvation of souls and the reformation
and good of Holy Church, so that my heart was melting from the love and
desire I had to lay down my life. This desire was blessed and grievous;
blessed it was for the union that I felt with truth, and grievous it was
for the oppression which I felt from the wrong against God, and the
multitude of demons who overshadowed all the city, dimming the eye of the
mind in human beings. Almost it seemed that God was letting them have
their way, through justice and divine discipline. Therefore my life could
not but dissolve in weeping, fearful for the great evil which seemed on
the point of coming, and because peace was hindered for this reason. But
in this great evil, God, who despises not the desire of His servants, and
that sweet mother Mary, whose name was invoked with pained and dolorous
and loving desires, granted that in all the tumult and the great upheaval
that occurred, we may almost say that there were no human deaths, except
those which justice inflicted. So the desire I had that God would show His
providence and destroy the power of the demons that they might not do so
much harm as they were ready to do, was fulfilled; but my desire to give
my life for the Truth and the sweet Bride of Christ was not fulfilled. But
the Eternal Bridegroom played a great joke on me, as Christopher will tell
you more fully by word of mouth. So I have reason to weep, because the
multitude of my iniquities was so great that I did not deserve that my
blood should give life, or illumine darkened minds, or reconcile the sons
with the father, or cement a stone in the mystical body of Holy Church.
Nay, it seemed that the hands of him who wanted to kill me were bound. My
words, "I am she. Take me, and let this family be," were a sword that
pierced straight through his heart. O Babbo mine, feel a wonderful joy in
yourself, for I never experienced in myself such mysteries, with so great
joy! There was the sweetness of truth in it, the gladness of a clean and
pure conscience; there was the fragrance of the sweet providence of God;
there was the savour of the times of new martyrs, foretold as you know by
the Eternal Truth. Tongue would not suffice to tell how great the good is
that my soul feels. I seem to be so bound to my Creator that if I gave my
body to be burned I could not satisfy the great mercy which I and my
cherished sons and daughters have received.

All this I tell you that you may not conceive bitterness; but may feel an
unspeakable delight, with softest gladness; and that you and I may begin
to sorrow over my imperfection, because so great a good was hindered by my
sin. How blessed my soul would have been had I given my blood for the
sweet Bride, and for love of the Blood and the salvation of souls! Now let
us rejoice and be faithful lovers.

I will not say more on this subject; I let Christopher tell this and other
things. Only I want to say this: do you pray Christ on earth not to delay
the peace because of what has happened, but make it all the more promptly,
so that then the other great deeds may be wrought which he has to do for
the honour of God and the reformation of Holy Church. For the condition of
things has not been changed by this--nay, for the present the city is
pacified suitably enough. Pray him to act swiftly; and I ask him this in
mercy, for infinite wrongs against God which happen through the situation
will thus be put an end to. Tell him to have pity and compassion on these
souls which are in great darkness: and tell him to release me from prison
swiftly; for unless peace is made it does not seem as if I could get out;
and I would wish then to come where you are, to taste the blood of the
martyrs, and to visit his Holiness, and to find myself with you once more,
telling of the admirable mysteries which God has wrought at this time;
with gladness of mind, and joyousness of heart, and increase of hope, in
the light of most holy faith. I say no more to you. Remain in the holy and
sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


By this time Catherine has evidently more than an inkling of the character
of the man she is addressing. Gregory had been, if anything, only too
susceptible to influences from varying quarters: Urban's arbitrary and
headstrong nature resented any interference. He was making extraordinary
blunders in tact and policy; but woe to the audacious person who sought to
point them out!

Catherine's letters to this new Pope, if less familiarly affectionate than
those to the old, show the same amazing combination of candour and
reverence. True to her constant principles in the interpretation of
character, she insists on putting the best possible construction on his
actions, ascribing his impatient vehemence and bad temper to a noble and
partially impersonal cause. One suspects that Urban had lost his temper
with poor Fra Bartolomeo because the friar had used too great freedom of
speech rather than too little, as Catherine suggests. Despite her
generosity, however, she can rebuke pungently enough, as this letter
shows. On another occasion, we find her sending to Urban a tangible
allegory in the form of bitter oranges, candied within and gilded without,
doubtless by her own hands, with a pretty letter to point the moral. And
again she wrote: "Mitigate a little, for the love of Christ crucified,
those sudden impulses which nature forces on you. In holy virtue, throw
nature aside. As God has given you a great heart naturally, so I beg and
want you to make it great supernaturally: with zealous desire for virtue
and the reform of Holy Church, do you establish the manly heart you have
gained in true humility. In this way you will have both natural and
supernatural gifts--for the one without the other would avail little, but
would rather inspire us with wrath and pride: and when it came to
correcting our intimates it would slacken its pace and become cowardly."

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

Most holy and sweet 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 you a true and royal ruler of your flock, whom you have
to nourish with the Blood of Christ crucified. Your Holiness has to see to
it with great diligence to whom you administer that Blood, and by what
means it is given; that is, I say, most holy father, that when shepherds
are to be appointed in the garden of Holy Church, let them be people who
seek God, and not benefices: and let the means of asking for the post be
such as act openly in the truth and not in falsehood.

Most holy father, have patience when you are talked to about these things.
For they are only said to you for the honour of God and for your
salvation, as a son ought to speak who loves his father tenderly, and
cannot bear that anything should be done which should turn to the loss or
shame of his father; but watches constantly, with intent earnestness,
because he sees well that his father, who has to rule a large family, can
see no more than one man sees. So if his lawful sons were not earnest in
caring for his honour and welfare, he would be deceived many a time and
oft. So it stands, most holy father. You are father and lord of the
universal body of the Christian religion; we are all under the wings of
your Holiness: as to authority, you can do everything, but as to seeing,
you can do no more than one man; so your sons must of necessity watch and
care with clean hearts and without any servile fear over what may be for
the honour of God and the safety and honour of you and the flocks that are
beneath your crook. And I know that your Holiness is very desirous of
having people to help you; but you must be patient in listening to them.

I am certain that two things must give you pain and make your mind angry,
and I am not in the least surprised. The one is that when you hear that
sins are committed, it hurts you that God should be wronged, for the wrong
and the faults displease you, and you experience a piercing of your heart.
In this case we ought not to be patient, or to refrain from grieving over
the wrongs that are shown to God. No; for so it would seem as if we
conformed us to these same vices. The other thing that might hurt you is
when the son who comes to tell you what he feels to be turning into wrong
against God and loss to souls and little honour to your holiness, commits
such ignorance that he conscientiously obliges himself, in the presence of
your Holiness, not to tell you clearly the absolute truth as it is; for
nothing should be secret nor hidden from you.

I beg you, holy father, that when your ignorant son offends in this point,
your pain should be without any excitement on your part: correct him in
his ignorance. I say this, because according to what Master Giovanni told
me of Brother Bartolomeo, he annoyed you and made you angry by his faults
and his scrupulous conscience; for which he and I have been extremely
sorry, since he thought that he had offended your Holiness. I beg you, by
the love of Christ crucified, to punish in me every pain that he may have
given you; I am ready for any discipline and correction which shall please
your Holiness. I believe that my sins were the reason why he showed
himself so ignorant, therefore I ought to bear the penalty; and he is very
desirous to come penitently to you wherever it might please your Holiness.
Have patience to bear his faults and mine. Bathe you in the Blood of
Christ crucified; comfort you in the sweet flame of His charity. Pardon my

I ask you humbly for your benediction. I thank the Divine Goodness and
your Holiness for the favour that you granted me on the day of St. John.
Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Catherine has missed her chance at martyrdom. Schism is threatening, and
she knows it: "I seem to have heard that discord is arising yonder between
Christ on earth and his disciples: from which thing I receive an
intolerable grief.... For everything else, like war, dishonour, and other
tribulations, would seem less than a straw or a shadow in comparison with
this. Think! For I tremble only to think of it ... I tell you, it seemed
as if my heart and life would leave their body through grief." So she
writes, out of trance, to the Cardinal Pietro di Luna--himself destined to
become later the antipope Benedict XIII.

The present sorrowful letter is to a hermit who had sinned violently in
youth, and repented passionately through many years of strictest
discipline. Catherine pours out her heart to him. The words in which
Shelley's Fury drives home to the agonizing Prometheus the apparent
tragedy of existence were fulfilled before her eyes:

  "Hypocrisy and custom make their minds
  The fanes of many a worship now outworn:
          *         *         *         *
  The good want power but to weep barren tears,
  The powerful goodness want--worse need for them:
  The wise want love; and those who love want wisdom;
  And all best things are thus confused to ill."

With unflinching clear-sightedness she presents the situation, turning in
vain to every quarter whence help might come. To the whole body of the
priesthood; to the timid monastic orders; to pious laymen honestly devout,
yet touched by no flame of sacrificial passion such as she felt might
bring salvation. It is never the sins of the world that most torture
Catherine: always, as here, the sins of the Church. She does not pause
till she comes to the terrible climax: "I see the Christian religion lying
like a dead man, and I neither mourn nor weep over him." It is the very
light of most holy faith that has confused the vision of men. And again we
hear the familiar refrain, "I believe that my iniquities are the cause of

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 you an hungered for souls, on the table of the most holy
Cross, in company with the humble and immaculate Lamb. I do not see,
father, that this sweet food can be eaten anywhere else. Why not? Because
we cannot eat it truly without enduring much; it must be eaten with the
teeth of true patience and the lips of holy desire, on the Cross of many
tribulations, from whatsoever side they may come--complaints, or the
scandals in the world; and we must endure all things till death. Now is
the time, dearest father, to show whether we are lovers of Christ
crucified and rejoice in this food or not. It is time to give honour to
God and our toils to our neighbour: toils, I say, of the body, with much
endurance, and toils of the mind, with grief and bitterness offering tears
and sweats, humble and continual prayer, and suffering desire, before God.
For I do not see that in any other way the wrath of God may be pacified
toward us, and His mercy inclined, and through His mercy the many sheep
recovered who are perishing in the hands of devils, unless in the way I
said, through great grief and compassion of heart, and the very greatest
devotion in prayer.

Therefore I invite you, dearest father, on behalf of Christ crucified, to
begin anew with me to lose ourselves, and to seek only the honour of God
in the salvation of souls, without any slavish fear: never to slacken our
steps either on account of our sufferings, or in order to please our
fellow-creatures, or because we might have to bear death, or for any other
reason; but let us run, as inebriate with love and grief over the
persecution that is wrought upon the Blood of Christ crucified. For on
whatever side we turn we see it persecuted. If I turn me toward ourselves,
rotten members that we are, we are persecuting it with our many faults,
and such stench of mortal sins and empoisoned self-love as poisons the
whole world. And if I turn me to the ministers of the Blood of the sweet
and humble Lamb, my tongue cannot even narrate their faults and sins. If I
turn me to the ministers who are under the yoke of obedience, I see them
so imperfect--the accursed root of self-love not being yet dead in them--
that not one has come to the point of wishing to give his life for Christ
crucified; but they have encouraged fear of death and pain rather than
holy fear of God and reverence for the Blood. And if I turn me to the
secular people who have already released their affections from the world,
they have not exercised virtue enough to leave the place where they were,
or suffer death rather than to do that which ought not to be done. They
have behaved so through imperfection, or else they are doing so through
prudence. If I had to teach them prudence, I should advise them that if
they wanted to reach perfection they should rather choose death, and if
they felt themselves weak, they should flee the place and cause of sin,
just as far as we can. This same counsel, if any chance came in your way,
I should think that you and every servant of God ought to give. For you
know that it is never lawful for us to commit a little sin in any way,
surely not for fear of suffering or death, since not even for
accomplishing some great good. So, then, on whatever side we turn us, we
find nothing but faults. For I do not doubt that if one single person had
had perfection enough to give his life, during the events which have
happened and are happening every day, the Blood would have called for
mercy, and bound the hands of divine justice, and broken those Pharaoh-
hearts which are hard as diamond stone; and I see no way in which they can
break other than through blood.

Ah me, ah me, misfortunate my soul! I see the Christian religion lying a
dead man, and I neither weep nor mourn over him. I see darkness invading
the light, for by the very light of most holy faith, received in the Blood
of Christ, I see men's sight become confused and the pupil of their eye
dried up; so that we see them fall as blind men into the ditch, into the
mouth of the wolf of Hell, stripped of virtue and dead by cold; being
stripped of the love of God and their neighbour, and released from the
bond of love, and lost to all reverence for God and for the Blood. Ah me!
I believe that my iniquities have been the cause of it.

So I beg you, dearest father, to pray God for me, that He take from me so
great iniquities, and that I be not the cause of so great ill: or may He
give me death. And I beg you to lift these sons of ours as dead up to the
table of the most holy Cross, and there do you eat this food, bathed in
the Blood of Christ crucified. I tell you that if you and the other
servants of God, and all of us, do not persuade ourselves with many
prayers, and others, to correct themselves of evils so great, divine
judgment will come, and divine justice will draw forth its rod. Indeed, if
we open our eyes, one of the greatest judgments that we can know in this
life is already befallen--that is, that we are deprived of light, and do
not see the loss and ill of soul and body. He who does not see cannot
correct himself, because he does not hate evil or love true good. So, not
correcting himself, he falls from bad to worse. So it seems to me that we
are doing, and we are at a worse point now than the first day. It is
essential, then, that we should never stop, if we are true servants of
God, in our much endurance and true patience, and in giving our toils to
our neighbour, and honour to God, with many prayers and grieving desire;
let sighs be food to us and tears our drink, upon the table of the Cross;
for another way I do not see. Therefore I said to you that I desired to
see you an hungered for souls upon the table of the most holy Cross.

I beg that your and my dearest sons be commended to you--those yonder, and
those here. Nourish them and make them grow in great perfection, so far as
your power goes. And let us strive to run, dead to all self-will,
spiritual and temporal; that is, not seeking our own spiritual
consolations, but only the food of souls, rejoicing in the Cross with
Christ crucified and giving our life, if need be, for the glory and
praise of His Name. I for my part die and cannot die, hearing and seeing
the insults to my Lord and Creator; therefore I ask an alms from you, that
you pray God for me, you and the others. I say no more to you. Remain in
the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Amid the horrors which darkened Europe during her last years, one episode
of pure joy was vouchsafed to Catherine. The decisiveness of Urban brought
to an end the vacillating negotiations of the Papal See with the
Florentines, and peace was proclaimed at last.

The first of these notes announces the first step toward a satisfactory
end--the observance of the Interdict, placed by Gregory upon the city, and
contumaciously broken by the rebels. In the second, the news of the
establishment of peace has just been brought. Catherine's first impulse is
to bid the friends at home rejoice with her in news great in itself, and
greater because it may clear the way for the realization of wider hopes.
It is noteworthy that the instant the end for which she has long been
straining is achieved, her loyal and aspiring spirit reverts to her old
dreams, and summons her companions to resume prayer for a Crusade.

The arrival of the olive of peace, of which Catherine sends a portion to
her friends, is the fit close to the long drama which had opened when
Christ placed the Cross on her shoulder and the olive in her hand, and
sent her to bear His command of reconciliation "to one and to the other


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 thee in His precious Blood: with
desire to see thee and the others brides and faithful servants of Christ
crucified, that you may constantly renew your wailing for the honour of
God, the salvation of souls, and the reform of Holy Church. Now is the
time for you to shut yourselves within self-knowledge, with continual
vigil and prayer that the sun may soon rise; for the aurora has begun to
dawn. The aurora has come in that the dusk of great mortal sins which were
committed in the office being said and heard publicly, is now scattered,
despite whoso would have hindered: and the interdict is observed. Thanks,
thanks be to our sweet Saviour, who despises not humble prayer, nor the
tears and burning desires of His servants! Since, then, He despises them
not, nay, but accepts them, I summon you to pray and to have prayer
offered to the Divine Goodness that He send us peace swiftly; that God may
be glorified and so great an evil ended, and that we may find ourselves
united, to tell the wonderful things of God.

Up! And sleep no more! Awaken, all of you, from the sleep of negligence!
Have special prayers offered at such and such monasteries, and tell our
Prioress to have all those daughters of hers offer special prayers for
peace, that God may show mercy on us, and that I may not return without
it. And for me, her poor daughter, that God will give me grace ever to
love and to proclaim the truth, and that for that truth I may die. I say
no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus


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 true sons, really serving our sweet Saviour, that you may give
more zealously thanks and praise to His name.

Oh, dearest sons, God has heard the cry of His servants, who for so long
have cried aloud before His face, and the lamentable cry which they have
raised so long over the sons who were dead. Now are they risen again--from
death they have come to life, and from blindness to light. Dearest sons,
the lame walk, and the deaf hear, the blind eye sees and the dumb speak,
crying aloud with a loud voice: "Peace, peace, peace!" with great
gladness--seeing themselves return as sons into the obedience and favour
of their father, their minds being reconciled. As people who now begin to
see, they say: "Thanks be to Thee, Lord, who hast reconciled us with our
holy father." Now the Lamb of God, sweet Christ on earth, is called holy,
while before he was called a heretic and a Patarin. Now they receive him
for a father, where before they refused him. I do not wonder, for the
cloud is passed, and fair weather has come. Rejoice, rejoice, dearest
sons, with very sweet weeping for thanksgiving, before the Highest Eternal
Father, not calling yourselves content with this, but praying Him that
soon may be raised the gonfalon of the most holy Cross. Rejoice, exult, in
Christ sweet Jesus; let our hearts break, seeing the largess of the
infinite goodness of God. Now peace is made, despite him who would hinder
it. Discomfited is the devil of hell.

Saturday evening one olive came at one o'clock at night; and to-day at
vespers came the other. And Saturday evening that friend of ours was
caught with a companion, so that at one time heresy was thoroughly put an
end to and peace came; now he is in prison. Pray God for him, that He give
him true light and knowledge. Drown you and bathe you in the Blood of
Christ crucified. Love, love one another. I send you some of the olive of
peace. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


Catherine had ardently wished to see in the Seat of Peter a reformer, who
should have courage to apply surgery to the festering wounds of the
Church. She had her desire; Urban began at once a drastic policy of Church
reform. But his domineering asperity proved unbearable to the College of
Cardinals, and schism broke upon a horrified world.

This was the situation:--After the death of Gregory, the cardinals, of
whom a large majority were French, when assembled in conclave in what was
to them the barbarous city of Rome, had been terrified by the shouts of
the populace demanding a Roman, or at least an Italian, for Pope.
Resorting to stratagem, they reported as their choice the old Roman
cardinal of San Pietro, who repudiated the false rumour with distress.
Meantime, agreeing on compromise and finding a "dark horse," the Sacred
College elected with all due solemnity the Archbishop of Bari, and by the
usual formalities notified the Christian world of the election. They soon,
as has been said, rebelled against the man of their choice, and,
announcing that the election had been invalid because occasioned by fear,
proceeded to appoint an antipope--Robert of Geneva, a man of personal
charm but of evil life, known in history as Clement VII. The impudence of
the reasons alleged by the cardinals for their action is well pointed out
by Catherine. But Europe became divided in its allegiance, and war of
words was soon followed by war of swords.

Catherine rose to the occasion. The rest of her tempestuous life was spent
in the desperate defence of the cause of Urban--a man whom she rightly
believed to be the lawful successor of Peter, yet concerning whose
unlovely character she was, as we have already seen, under no illusions.
The many letters which she wrote with the aim of convincing important
personages of the validity of Urban's claims, are historical documents of
high value. One feels in them all the amazement with which a woman whose
native air was the mystical conception of an infallible Church, faced the
realities of the ecclesiastical machine. But loyalty stood the test, and
while never leaving the highest ground, Catherine proved herself capable
of a statesmanlike treatment of the actual situation. The present letter
is addressed to the three Italian members of the Sacred College, who,
after holding at first by their countryman, were induced by the Frenchmen
to betray him: it is a tissue of telling and convincing representations,
interwoven with indignant rebuke and eloquent pleadings.

This was not the first time that a great Italian patriot had remonstrated
with the churchmen of Italy. Catherine's letter invites inevitable
comparison with that noble letter to Italian cardinals written by Dante on
the occasion of the impending papal election that followed the death of
Clement V. Dante, like Catherine, appealed to the cardinals on behalf of
Rome and Italy: his plea, that they put an end to the Babylonian Captivity
in Avignon and return to the Seat of Peter. That letter marked an early
stage in the disgraceful abandonment of the Holy City; this of Catherine
treats of the outcome of that great wrong. "Yet the wound will be healed,"
wrote Dante; "(though it cannot be otherwise than that the scar and brand
of infamy will have burned with fire upon the Apostolic See and will
disfigure her for whom heaven and earth had been reserved)--if ye who were
the authors of this transgression will all with one accord fight manfully
for the Bride of Christ, for the Throne of the Bride which is Rome, for
our Italy, and that I may speak more fully, for the whole commonwealth of
pilgrims upon this earth...." Over sixty years had passed since Dante
wrote thus; they had been years of sin and shame. The words of Catherine,
as she confronts a situation yet darker than he had faced, breathe a less
assured courage. But her patriotism and her Christianity are of like
temper with his own.

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

Dearest brothers and 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 turn back to the true and most perfect
light, leaving the deep shadows of blindness into which you are fallen.
Then you shall be fathers to me; otherwise not. Yes, indeed, I call you
fathers in so far as you shall leave death and turn back to life (for, as
things go now, you are parted from the life of grace, limbs cut off from
your head from which you drew life), when you shall stand united in faith,
and in that perfect obedience to Pope Urban VI., in which those abide who
have the light, and in light know the truth, and knowing it love it. For
the thing that is not seen cannot be known, and he who knows not loves
not, and he who loves not and fears not his Creator loves himself with
fleshly love, and whatever he loves, joys or honours and dignities of the
world, he loves according to the flesh. Since man is created through love,
he cannot live without love; either he loves God, or he loves himself and
the world with the love that kills, fastening the eye of his mind darkened
by self-love on those transitory things that pass like the wind. In this
state he can recognize no truth nor goodness; he recognizes naught but
falsehood, because he has not light. For truly had he the light, he would
recognize that from such a love as this naught can result but pain and
eternal death. It gives him a foretaste of hell in this life; for he who
immoderately loves himself and the things of this world, becomes
unendurable to himself.

Oh, human blindness! Seest thou not, unfortunate man, that thou thinkest
to love things firm and stable, joyous things, good and fair? and they are
mutable, the sum of wretchedness, hideous, and without any goodness; not
as they are created things in themselves, since all are created by God,
who is perfectly good, but through the nature of him who possesses them
intemperately. How mutable are the riches and honours of the world in him
who possesses them without God, without the fear of Him! for to-day is he
rich and great, and to-day he is poor. How hideous is our bodily life,
that living we shed stench from every part of our body! Simply a sack of
dung, the food for worms, the food of death! Our life and the beauty of
youth pass by, like the beauty of the flower when it is gathered from the
plant. There is none who can save this beauty, none who can preserve it,
that it be not taken, when it shall please the highest Judge to gather
this flower of life by death; and none knows when.

Oh, wretched man, the darkness of self-love does not let thee know this
truth. For didst thou know it, thou wouldst choose any pain rather than
guide thy life in this way; thou wouldst give thee to loving and desiring
Him who Is; thou wouldst enjoy His truth in firmness, and wouldst not move
about like a leaf in the wind; thou wouldst serve thy Creator, and wouldst
love everything in Him, and apart from Him nothing. Oh, how will this
blindness be reproved at the last moment in every rational being, and much
the more in those whom God has taken from the filth of the world, and
assigned to the greatest excellence that can be, having made them
ministers of the Blood of the humble and spotless Lamb! Oh me, oh me! what
have you come to by not having followed up your dignities with virtue? You
were placed to nourish you at the breasts of Holy Church; you were flowers
planted to breathe forth the fragrance of virtue in that garden; you were
placed as masts to strengthen this ship, and the Vicar of Christ on earth;
you were placed as lights in a candlestick, to give light to faithful
Christians, and to spread the faith. Well you know if you have done that
for which you were created. Surely no; for self-love has prevented you
from knowing that in truth alone, to fortify men and give a shining
example of good and holy life, you were put in this garden. Had you known
this you would have loved it, and clothed you in that sweet truth. Where
is the gratitude which you ought to have for the Bride who has nourished
you at her breast? I see in us naught but such ingratitude as dries up the
fountain of pity. What shows me that you are ungrateful, coarse, and
mercenary? The persecution which you, together with others, are inflicting
on that sweet Bride, at a time when you ought to be shields, to ward off
the blows of heresy. In spite of which, you clearly know the truth, that
Pope Urban VI. is truly Pope, the highest Pontiff, chosen in orderly
election, not influenced by fear, truly rather by divine inspiration than
by your human industry. And so you announced it to us, which was the
truth. Now you have turned your backs, like poor mean knights; your shadow
has made you afraid. You have divided you from the truth which strengthens
us, and drawn close to falsehood, which weakens soul and body, depriving
you of temporal and spiritual grace. What made you do this? The poison of
self-love, which has infected the world. That is what has made you pillars
lighter than straw. Flowers you who shed no perfume, but stench that makes
the whole world reek! No lights you placed in a candlestick, that you
might spread the faith; but, having hidden your light under the bushel of
pride, and become not extenders, but contaminators of the faith, you shed
darkness over yourselves and others. You should have been angels on earth,
placed to release us from the devils of hell, and performing the office of
angels, by bringing back the sheep into the obedience of Holy Church, and
you have taken the office of devils. That evil which you have in
yourselves you wish to infect us with, withdrawing us from obedience to
Christ on earth, and leading us into obedience to antichrist, a member of
the devil, as you are too, so long as you shall abide in this heresy.

This is not the kind of blindness that springs from ignorance. It has not
happened to you because people have reported one thing to you while
another is so. No, for you know what the truth is: it was you who
announced it to us, and not we to you. Oh, how mad you are! For you told
us the truth, and you want yourselves to taste a lie! Now you want to
corrupt this truth, and make us see the opposite, saying that you chose
Pope Urban from fear, which is not so; but anyone who says it--speaking to
you without reverence, because you have deprived yourselves of reverence--
lies up to his eyes. For it is evident to anyone who wished to see, who it
is that you presented as your choice through fear--that was Messer di
Santo Pietro. You might say to me, "Why do you not believe us? We know the
truth as to whom we chose better than you." And I reply, that you
yourselves have shown me that you deserted the truth in many ways, so that
I ought not to believe you, that Pope Urban VI. is not the true Pope. If I
turn to the beginnings of your life, I do not recognize in you so good and
holy a life that you would shrink from a lie for conscience' sake. What
shows me that your life is badly governed? The poison of heresy. If I turn
to the election ordained by your lips, we knew that you chose him
canonically and not through fear. We have already said that he whom you
presented to the people through fear was Messer di Santo Pietro. What
proves to me the regular election with which you chose Messer Bartolommeo,
Archbishop of Bari, who to-day is made in truth Pope Urban VI.? In the
solemnity with which his coronation was observed, this truth is clear to
us. That the solemnity was carried out in good faith is shown by the
reverence which you gave him and the favours asked from him, which you
have used in all sorts of ways. You cannot deny this truth except with
plain lies.

Ah, foolish men, worthy of a thousand deaths! As blind, you do not see
your own wrong, and have fallen into such confusion that you make of your
own selves liars and idolaters. For even were it true (which it is not;
nay, I assert again that Pope Urban VI. is the true Pope), but were it
true what you say, would you not have lied to us when you told us that he
was the highest pontiff, as he is? And would you not falsely have shown
him reverence, adoring him for Christ on earth? And would you not have
practised simony, in trying for favours and using them unlawfully? Yes,
indeed. Now they, and you with them, have made an antipope, as far as your
action and outward appearance go, since you consented to remain on the
spot, when the incarnate demons chose the demon!

You might say to me: "No, we did not choose him." I do not know how I can
believe that. For I do not believe that you could have borne to stay there
otherwise, had you given your life for it; at least the fact that you
suppressed the truth, and did not burst out with it--for this would not
have been within your power--makes me inclined to think so. Although,
perhaps, you did less wrong than the others in your intention, yet you did
do wrong with all the rest. What can I say? I can say that he who is not
for the truth is against the truth; he who was not at that time for Christ
on earth, Pope Urban VI., was against him. Therefore I tell you that you
did wrong, with the antipope: and I may say that he was chosen a member of
the devil; for had he been a member of Christ, he would have chosen death
rather than consent to so great an evil, for he well knows the truth, and
cannot excuse himself through ignorance. Now you have committed all these
faults in regard to this devil: that is, to confess him as Pope, which he
surely is not, and to show reverence to whom you should not. You have
deserted the light, and gone into darkness: the truth, and joined you to a
lie. On what side soever, I find nothing but lies. You are worthy of
torture, which, I tell you in truth and unburden my conscience thereof,
unless you return to obedience with true humility, will fall upon you.

O misery upon misery, and blindness upon blindness, which does not let its
wrong be seen nor the loss to soul and body! For had you seen it, you
would not have deserted the truth so lightly, in servile fear, passionate
all, like proud people and arbitrary, accustomed to pleasant and soft
dealings from men! You could not endure, not only an actual correction
indeed, but even a harsh word of reproof made you lift up rebellious
heads. This is the reason why you changed. And it clearly reveals the
truth to us; for, before Christ on earth began to sting you, you confessed
him and reverenced him as the Vicar of Christ that he is. But this last
fruit that you bear, which brings forth death, shows what kind of trees
you are; and that your tree is planted in the earth of pride, which
springs from the self-love that robs you of the light of reason.

Oh me, no more thus for the love of God! Take refuge in humbling you
beneath the mighty hand of God, in obedience to His Vicar, while you have
time; for when the time is passed there will be no more help for us.
Recognize your faults, that you may be humble, and know the infinite
goodness of God, who has not commanded the earth to swallow you up, nor
beasts to devour you; nay, but has given you time, that you may correct
your soul. But if you shall not recognize this, what He has given you as a
grace shall turn to your great judgment. But if you will return to the
fold, and feed in truth at the breast of the Bride of Christ, you shall be
received in mercy, by Christ in heaven and by Christ on earth, despite the
iniquity you have wrought. I beg that you delay no more, nor kick against
the prick of conscience that I know is perpetually stabbing you. And let
not confusion of mind, over the evil that you have wrought, so overcome
you, that you abandon your salvation in weariness and despair, as seeming
unable to find help. Not so must you do; but in living faith, hold firm
hope in your Creator, and return humbly to your yoke; for the last sin of
obstinacy and despair would be the worst, and most hateful to God and the
world. Arise, then, into the light! For without light you would walk in
darkness, as you have done up to now.

My soul considering this, that we can neither know nor love the truth
without light, I said and say that I desire intensely to see you arisen
from darkness, and one with the light. This desire reaches out to all
rational beings, but much more to you three, concerning whom I have had
the greatest sorrow, and marvel more at your fault than at all the others
who have shared it. For did all desert their father, you should have been
such sons as strengthened the father, showing the truth. Notwithstanding
that the father might have treated you with nothing but reproof, you ought
not therefore to have assumed the lead, denying his holiness in any way.
Speaking entirely in the natural sense--for according to virtue we ought
all to be equal--speaking humanly, Christ on earth being an Italian, and
you Italian, I see no reason but self-love why passion for your country
could not move you as it did the Ultramontanes. Cast it to earth now, and
do not wait for time, since time does not wait for you--trampling such
selfishness underfoot, with hate of vice and love of virtue.

Return, return, and wait not for the rod of justice, since we cannot
escape the hands of God! We are in His hands either by justice or by
mercy; better it is for us to recognize our faults and to abide in the
hands of mercy, than to remain in fault and in the hands of justice. For
our faults do not pass unpunished, especially those that are wrought
against Holy Church. But I wish to bind myself to bear you before God with
tears and continual prayer, and to bear with you your penitence, provided
that you choose to return to your father, who like a true father awaits
you with the open wings of mercy. Oh me, oh me, avoid and flee it not, but
humbly receive it, and do not believe evil counsellors who have given you
over to death! Oh me, sweet brothers! Sweet brothers and fathers you shall
be to me, in so far as you draw close to truth. Make no more resistance to
the tears and sweats which the servants of God shed for you, but wash you
in them from head to foot. For did you despise them, and the eager sweet
and grieving desires which are offered by them for you, you would receive
much greater rebuke. Fear God, and His true judgment. I hope by His
infinite goodness that He will fulfil in you the desire of His servants.

Let it not seem hard to you if I pierce you with the words which the love
of your salvation has made me write: rather would I pierce you with my
living voice, did God permit me. His will be done. And yet you deserve
rather deeds than words. I come to an end, and say no more; for did I
follow my will I should not yet pause, so full is my soul of grief and
sorrow to see such blindness in those who were placed for a light: no
lambs they, who feed on the food of the honour of God and the salvation of
souls, and the reform of Holy Church; but as thieves they steal the honour
which they ought to give to God, and give it to themselves, and as wolves
they devour the sheep, so that I have great bitterness. I beg you by love
of that precious Blood shed with such fiery love for you, that you give
refreshment to my soul, which seeks your salvation. I say no more to you.
Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God: bathe you in the Blood of the
Spotless Lamb, where you shall lose all servile fear, and enlightened, you
shall abide in holy fear. Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love.


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.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letters of Catherine Benincasa" ***

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