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Title: The Mystical Element of Religion, as studied in Saint Catherine of Genoa and her friends, Volume 1 (of 2)

Author: Baron Friedrich von Hügel

Release Date: October 14, 2015 [EBook #50205]

Language: English

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TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: Volume II is available as Project Gutenberg ebook number 50206.


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Walker & Boutall, ph, sc

St. Catherine of Genoa.
(Caterina Fiesca Adorna.)




Shadows we are and like shadows depart




Richard Clay & Sons, Limited,



The following work embodies well-nigh all that the writer has been able to learn and to test, in the matter of religion, during now some thirty years of adult life; and even the actual composition of the book has occupied a large part of his time, for seven years and more.

The precise object of the book naturally grew in range, depth and clearness, under the stress of the labour of its production. This object will perhaps be best explained by means of a short description of the undertaking’s origin and successive stages.

Born as I was in Italy, certain early impressions have never left me; a vivid consciousness has been with me, almost from the first, of the massively virile personalities, the spacious, trustful times of the early, as yet truly Christian, Renaissance there, from Dante on to the Florentine Platonists. And when, on growing up, I acquired strong and definite religious convictions, it was that ampler pre-Protestant, as yet neither Protestant nor anti-Protestant, but deeply positive and Catholic, world, with its already characteristically modern outlook and its hopeful and spontaneous application of religion to the pressing problems of life and thought, which helped to strengthen and sustain me, when depressed and hemmed in by the types of devotion prevalent since then in Western Christendom. For those early modern times presented me with men of the same general instincts and outlook as my own, but environed by the priceless boon and starting-point of a still undivided Western Christendom; Protestantism, as such, continued to be felt as ever more or less unjust and sectarian; and the specifically post-Tridentine type of Catholicism, with its regimental Seminarism, its predominantly controversial spirit, its suspiciousness and timidity, persisted, however inevitable some of it may be, in its failure to win my love. Hence I had to continue the seeking and the finding elsewhere, yet ever well within[vi] the great Roman Church, things more intrinsically lovable. The wish some day to portray one of those large-souled pre-Protestant, post-Mediaeval Catholics, was thus early and has been long at work within me.

And then came John Henry Newman’s influence with his Dream of Gerontius, and a deep attraction to St. Catherine of Genoa’s doctrine of the soul’s self-chosen, intrinsic purification; and much lingering about the scenes of Caterinetta’s life and labours, during more than twenty stays in her terraced city that looks away so proudly to the sea. Such a delicately psychological, soaring, yet sober-minded Eschatology, with its striking penetration and unfolding of the soul’s central life and alternatives as they are already here and now, seemed to demand an ampler study than it had yet received, and to require a vivid presentation of the noble, strikingly original personality from whom it sprang.

And later still came the discovery of the apparently hopeless complication of the records of Catherine’s life and doctrine, and how these had never been seriously analyzed by any trained scholar, since their constitution into a book in 1552. Much critical work at Classical and Scriptural texts and documentary problems had, by now, whetted my appetite to try whether I could not at last bring stately order out of this bewildering chaos, by perhaps discovering the authors, dates and intentions of the various texts and glosses thus dovetailed and pieced together into a very Joseph’s coat of many colours, and by showing the successive stages of this, most original and difficult, Saint’s life and legend. All this labour would, in any case, help to train my own mind; and it would, if even moderately successful, offer one more detailed example of the laws that govern such growths, and of the critical method necessary for the tracing out of their operation.

But the strongest motive revealed itself, in its full force, later than all those other motives, and ended by permeating them all. The wish arose to utilize, as fully as possible, this long, close contact with a soul of most rare spiritual depth,—a soul that presents, with an extraordinary, provocative vividness, the greatness, helps, problems and dangers of the mystical spirit. I now wanted to try and get down to the driving forces of this kind of religion, and to discover in what way such a keen sense of, and absorption in, the Infinite can still find room for the Historical and Institutional elements of Religion, and, at the same time, for that noble concentration[vii] upon not directly religious contingent facts and happenings, and upon laws of causation or of growth, which constitutes the scientific temper of mind and its specific, irreplaceable duties and virtues. Thus, having begun to write a biography of St. Catherine, with some philosophical elucidations, I have finished by writing an essay on the philosophy of Mysticism, illustrated by the life of Caterinetta Fiesca Adorna and her friends.

The book’s chief peculiarities seem to spring inevitably from its fundamental standpoint: hence their frank enumeration may help towards the more ready comprehension of the work.

The book has, throughout, a treble interest and spirit; historico-critical, philosophical, religious. The historico-critical constituent may attract critical specialists; but will such specialists care for the philosophy? The philosopher may be attracted by the psychological and speculative sections; but will the historical analysis interest him at all? And the soul that is seeking spiritual food and stimulation, will it not readily be wearied by the apparent pettiness of all that criticism, and by the seemingly cold aloofness of all that speculation?—And yet it is the most certain of facts that the human soul is so made as to be unable to part, completely and finally, with any one of these three great interests. Hence, I may surely hope that this trinity of levels of truth and of life, which has so much helped on the growth of my own mind and the constitution of my own character, may, in however different a manner and degree, be found to help others also. This alternation and interstimulation between those three forces and interests within the same soul, and within this soul’s ever-deepening life, is, in any case, too fundamental a feature of this whole outlook for any attempt at its elimination here.

Then there is a look of repetition and of illogical anticipation about the very structure of the book. For the philosophical First Part says, in general, what the biographical Second Part says in detail; this detail is, in reality, based upon the critical conclusions arrived at in the Appendix, which follows the precise descriptions of the biography; and then the Third, once more a philosophical, Part returns, now fortified by the intervening close occupation with concrete contingent matters, to the renewed consideration, and deeper penetration and enforcement, of the general positions with[viii] which the whole work began.—Yet is not this circular method simply a frank application, to the problems in hand, of the process actually lived through by us all in real life, wherever such life is truly fruitful? For, in real life, we ever start with certain general intellectual-emotive schemes and critical principles, as so many draw-nets and receptacles for the capture and sorting out of reality and of our experience of it. We next are brought, by choice or by necessity, into close contact with a certain limited number of concrete facts and experiences. And we then use these facts and experiences to fill in, to confirm or to modify that, more or less tentative and predominantly inherited, indeed ever largely conventional, scheme with which we began our quest. In all these cases of actual life, this apparently long and roundabout, indeed back-before, process is, in reality, the short, because the only fully sincere and humble, specifically human way in which to proceed. The order so often followed in “learned” and “scientific” books is, in spite of its appearance of greater logic and conciseness, far longer; for the road thus covered has to be travelled all over again, according to the circular method just described, if we would gain, not wind and shadow, but substance and spiritual food.

Then again, there is everywhere a strong insistence upon History as a Science, yet as a Science possessing throughout a method, type and aim quite special to itself and deeply different from those of Physical Science; and an even greater stress upon the important, indeed irreplaceable function of both these kinds of Science, or of their equivalents, in the fullest spiritual life. Here the insistence upon History, as a Science, is still unusual in England; and the stress upon the spiritually purifying power of these Sciences will still appear somewhat fantastic everywhere.—Yet that conception of two branches of ordered human apprehension, research and knowledge, each (in its delicate and clear contrastedness of method, test, end and result) legitimate and inevitable, so that either of them is ruined if forced into the categories of the other, has most certainly come to stay. And the attempt to discover the precise function and meaning of these several mental activities and of their ethical pre-requisites, within the full and spiritual life of the soul, and in view of this life’s consolidation and growth, will, I believe, turn out to be of genuine religious utility. For I hope to show how only one particular manner of conceiving and of practising those scientific activities and[ix] this spiritual life and consolidation allows, indeed requires, the religious passion,—the noblest and deepest passion given to man,—to be itself enlisted on the side of that other noble, indestructible thing, severe scientific sincerity. This very sincerity would thus not empty or distract, but would, on the contrary, purify and deepen the soul’s spirituality; and hence this spirituality would continuously turn to that sincerity for help in purifying and deepening the soul. And, surely, until we have somehow attained to some such interaction, the soul must perforce remain timid and weak; for without sincerity everywhere, we cannot possibly develop to their fullest the passion for truth and righteousness even in religion itself.

And then again a Catholic, one who would be a proudly devoted and grateful son of the Roman Church, speaks and thinks throughout the following pages. Yet it is his very Catholicism which makes him feel, with a spontaneous and continuous keenness, that only if there are fragments, earlier stages and glimpses of truth and goodness extant wheresoever some little sincerity exists, can the Catholic Church even conceivably be right. For though Christianity and Catholicism be the culmination and fullest norm of all religion, yet to be such they must find something thus to crown and measure: various degrees of, or preparations for, their truth have existed long before they came, and exist still, far and wide, now that they have come. Otherwise, Marcion would have been right, when he denied that the Old Testament proceeds from the same God as does the New; and three-fourths or more of the human race would not, to this very moment, be bereft, without fault of their own, of all knowledge of the Historic Christ and of every opportunity for definite incorporation into the Christian Church, since we dare not think that God has left this large majority of His children without any and every glimpse and opportunity of religious truth, moral goodness, and eternal hope. Yet such a recognition of some light and love everywhere involves no trace of levelling down, or even of levelling up; it is, in itself, without a trace of Indifferentism. For if some kinds or degrees of light are thus found everywhere, yet this light is held to vary immensely in different times and places, from soul to soul, and from one religious stage, group or body to another; the measure and culmination of this light is found in the deepest Christian and Catholic light and holiness; and, over and above the involuntary, sincere differences in degree, stage and kind,[x] there are held to exist, also more or less everywhere, the differences caused by cowardice and opposition to the light,—cowardices and oppositions which are as certainly at work within the Christian and Catholic Church as they are amongst the most barbarous of Polytheists. I may well have failed adequately to combine these twin truths; yet only in some such, though more adequate apprehension and combination resides the hope for the future of our poor storm-tossed human race,—in a deep fervour without fanaticism, and a generous sympathy without indifference.

And lastly, a lay lover of religion speaks throughout, a man to whom the very suspicion that such subjects should or could, on that account, be foreign to him has ever been impossible. A deep interest in religion is evidently part of our very manhood, a thing previous to the Church, and which the Church now comes to develop and to save. Yet such an interest is, in the long run, impossible, if the heart and will alone are allowed to be active in a matter so supremely great and which claims the entire man. “Where my heart lies, let my brain lie also”: man is not, however much we may try and behave as though he were, a mere sum-total of so many separable water-tight compartments; he can no more fruitfully delegate his brains and his interest in the intellectual analysis and synthesis of religion, than he can commission others to do his religious feeling and willing, his spiritual growth and combat, for him.—But this does not of itself imply an individualistic, hence one-sided, religion. For only in close union with the accumulated and accumulating experiences, analyses and syntheses of the human race in general, and with the supreme life and teaching of the Christian and Catholic Church in particular, will such growth in spiritual personality be possible on any large and fruitful scale: since nowhere, and nowhere less than in religion, does man achieve anything by himself alone, or for his own exclusive use and profit.

And such a layman’s views, even when thus acquired and expressed with a constant endeavour to be, and ever increasingly to become, a unit and part and parcel of that larger, Christian and Catholic whole, will ever remain, in themselves and in his valuation of them, unofficial, and, at best, but so much material and stimulation for the kindly criticism and discriminating attention of his fellow-creatures and fellow-Christians and (should these views stand such informal, preliminary tests) for the eventual utilization of the official[xi] Church. To this officiality ever remains the exclusive right and duty to formulate successively, for the Church’s successive periods, according as these become ripe for such formulations, the corporate, normative forms and expressions of the Church’s deepest consciousness and mind. Yet this officiality cannot and does not operate in vacuo, or by a direct recourse to extra-human sources of information. It sorts out, eliminates what is false and pernicious, or sanctions and proclaims what is true and fruitful, and a development of her own life, teaching and commission, in the volunteer, tentative and preliminary work put forth by the Church’s unofficial members.

And just because both these movements are within, and necessary to, one and the same complete Church, they can be and are different from each other. Hence the following book would condemn itself to pompous unreality were it to mimic official caution and emphasis, whilst ever unable to achieve official authority. It prefers to aim at a layman’s special virtues and function: complete candour, courage, sensitiveness to the present and future, in their obscurer strivings towards the good and true, as these have been in their substance already tested in the past, and in so far as such strivings can be forecasted by sympathy and hope. And I thus trust that the book may turn out to be as truly Catholic in fact, as it has been Catholic in intention; I have striven hard to furnish so continuous and copious a stream of actions and teachings of Christian saints and sages as everywhere to give the reader means of correcting or completing my own inferences; and I sincerely submit these my own conclusions to the test and judgment of my fellow-Christians and of the Catholic Church.

My obligations to scholars, thinkers and great spiritual souls are far too numerous and great for any exhaustive recognition. Yet there are certain works and persons to whom I am especially indebted; and these shall here be mentioned with most grateful thanks.

In my Biographical and Critical Part Second, I have had, in Genoa itself, the help of various scholars and friends. Signor Dottore Ridolfo de Andreis first made me realize the importance of Vallebona’s booklet. Padre Giovanni Semeria, the Barnabite, put me in touch with the right persons and documents. The Cavallière L. A. Cervetto, of the Biblioteca Civica, referred me to many useful works. The Librarian of the[xii] Biblioteca della Missione Urbana copied out for me the inventory of St. Catherine’s effects. And Signor Dottore Augusto Ferretto, of the Archivio di Stato, made admirably careful, explicitated copies for me, from the originals, so full of difficult abbreviations, of the long series of legal documents which are the rock-bed on which my biography is built.

The courteous help of the Head Librarian of the Genoese University Library extended to beyond Genoa. For it was owing to his action, in conjunction with that of the Italian Ministry, of the English Embassy in Rome, and of the British Museum Authorities, that the three most important of the manuscripts of St. Catherine’s life were most generously deposited for my use at the latter institution. I was thus enabled to study my chief sources at full leisure in London.

The Rev. Padre Calvino, Canon Regular of the Lateran, made many kind attempts to trace any possible compositions concerning St. Catherine among the Venerable Battista Vernazza’s manuscripts, preserved by the spiritual descendants of Battista’s Augustinian Canonesses in Genoa; it was not his fault that nothing could be found.

The Society of Bollandists lent me, for a liberal length of time, various rare books. I shall indeed be proud if my Appendix wins their approbation, since it deals with subject-matters and methods in which they are past-masters. Father Sticker’s pages on St. Catherine, in their Acta Sanctorum (1752), are certainly not satisfactory; they are, however, quite untypical of the Bollandists’ best work, or even of their average performances.

My obligations in my Psychological and Philosophical Parts First and Third are still more numerous and far more difficult to trace. Indeed it is precisely where these obligations are the most far-reaching that I can least measure them, since the influence of the books and persons concerned has become part of the texture of my own mind.

But among the great religious spirits or stimulating thinkers of Classical and Patristic times, I am conscious of profound obligations to Plato generally; to Aristotle on two points; to St. Paul; to Plotinus; to Clement of Alexandria; and to St. Augustine. And the Areopagite Literature has necessarily been continuously in my mind. Among Mediaeval writers St. Thomas Aquinas has helped me greatly, in ways both direct and indirect; Eckhart has, with the help of Father H. S. Denifle’s investigations, furnished much food for reflection[xiii] by his most instructive doctrinal excesses; and the extraordinarily deep and daring spirituality of Jacopone da Todi’s poetry has been studied with the greatest care.

The Renaissance times have given me Cardinal Nicolas of Coes, whose great Dialogue de Idiota has helped me in various ways. And in the early post-Reformation period I have carefully studied, and have been much influenced by, that many-sided, shrewdly wise book, St. Teresa’s Autobiography. Yet it is St. John of the Cross, that massively virile Contemplative, who has most deeply influenced me throughout this work. St. Catherine is, I think, more like him, in her ultimate spirit, than any other Saint or spiritual writer known to me; she is certainly far more like him than is St. Teresa.

Later on, I have learnt much from Fénelon’s Latin writings concerning Pure Love, of 1710 and 1712; together with Abbé Gosselin’s admirably lucid Analyse de la Controverse du Quiétisme, 1820, and the Jesuit Father Deharbe’s solid and sober die vollkommene Liebe Gottes, 1856.

Among modern philosophers I have been especially occupied with, and variously stimulated or warned by, Spinoza, with his deep religious intuition and aspiration, and his determinist system, so destructive because taken by him as ultimate; Leibniz, with his admirably continuous sense of the multiplicity in every living unity, of the organic character, the inside of everything that fully exists, and of the depth and range of our subconscious mental and emotional life; Kant, with his keen criticisms and searching analyses, his profound ethical instincts, and his curious want of the specifically religious sense and insight; Schopenhauer, with his remarkable recognition of the truth and greatness of the Ascetic element and ideal; Trendelenburg, with his continuous requirement of an operative knowledge of the chief stages which any principle or category has passed through in human history, if we would judge this principle with any fruit; Kierkegaard, that certainly one-sided, yet impressively tenacious re-discoverer and proclaimer of the poignant sense of the Transcendent essential to all deep religion, and especially to Christianity, religion’s flower and crown; and Fechner, in his little-known book, so delightfully convincing in its rich simplicity, die drei Motive und Gründe des Glaubens, 1863.

Of quite recent or still living writers, two have been used by me on a scale which would be unpardonable, had the[xiv] matters treated by them been the direct subjects of my book. In Part First whole pages of mine are marked by me as little but a précis of passages in Dr. Eduard Zeller’s standard Philosophy of the Greeks. I have myself much studied Heracleitus, Parmenides, Plato and Plotinus; and I have, also in the case of the other philosophers, always followed up and tested such passages of Zeller as I have here transcribed. But I did not, for by far the most part, think it worth while, on these largely quite general and practically uncontested matters, to construct fresh appreciations of my own, rather than to reproduce, with due consideration and acknowledgments, the conclusions of such an accepted authority. And already in Part First, but especially in Part Third, I have utilized as largely, although here with still more of personal knowledge and of careful re-examination, considerable sections of Professor H. J. Holtzmann’s Lehrbuch der Neutestamentlichen Theologie, 1897—sections which happen to be, upon the whole, the deepest and most solid in that great but often daring work. The same Professor Holtzmann is, besides, a most suggestive religious philosopher; and his penetrating though very difficult book Richard Rothe’s Speculatives System, 1899, has also been of considerable use.

Other recent or contemporary German writers to whom I owe much, are Erwin Rhode, in his exquisite great book, Psyche, 2nd ed., 1898; Professor Johannes Volkelt, in his penetratingly critical Kant’s Erkenntnisstheorie, 1879; Professor Hugo Münsterberg, in his largely planned although too absolute Grundzüge der Psychologie, Vol. I., 1900; Professor Heinrich Rickert, in his admirably discriminating Grenzen der naturwissenschaftlichen Begriffsbildung, 1902; and also two friends whose keen care for religion never flags—Professors Rudolf Eucken of Jena and Ernst Troeltsch of Heidelberg. Eucken’s Lebensanschauungen der grossen Denker, 1st ed., 1890; der Kampf um einen geistigen Lebensinhalt, 1896; and the earlier sections of der Wahrheitsgehalt der Religion, 1902, have greatly helped me. And Troeltsch’s Grund-probleme der Ethik, 1902, has considerably influenced certain central conceptions of my book, notwithstanding the involuntary, rough injustice manifested by him, especially elsewhere, towards the Roman Church.

Among present-day French writers, my book owes most to Professor Maurice Blondel’s, partly obscure yet intensely alive and religiously deep, work L’Action, 1893; to Dr. Pierre Jane[xv]t’s carefully first-hand observations, as chronicled in his Etat Mental des Hystériques, 1894; to Monsieur Emil Boutroux’s very suggestive paper Psychologie du Mysticisme, 1902; to various pregnant articles of the Abbé L. Laberthonnière in the Annales de Philosophie Chrétienne, 1898-1906; and to M. Henri Bergson’s delicately penetrating Essai sur les Données Immédiates de la Conscience, 2nd ed., 1898.

And amongst living Englishmen, the work is most indebted to Professor A. S. Pringle-Pattison, especially to his eminently sane Hegelianism and Personality, 2nd ed., 1893; to Professor James Ward, in his strenuous Naturalism and Agnosticism, 1st ed., 1899; to the Reverend George Tyrrell’s Hard Sayings, 1898, and The Faith of the Millions, 2 vols., 1901, so full of insight into Mysticism; and, very especially, to Dr. Edward Caird, in his admirably wide and balanced survey, The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers, 1904.

But further back than all the living writers and friends lies the stimulation and help of him who was later on to become Cardinal Newman. It was he who first taught me to glory in my appurtenance to the Catholic and Roman Church, and to conceive this my inheritance in a large and historical manner, as a slow growth across the centuries, with an innate affinity to, and eventual incorporation of, all the good and true to be found mixed up with error and with evil in this chequered, difficult but rich world and life in which this living organism moves and expands. Yet the use to which all these helps have here been put, has inevitably been my own doing: nowhere except in direct quotations have I simply copied, and nowhere are these helpers responsible for what here appears.

And then there have been great souls, whom I cannot well name here, but whom I would nevertheless refer to in reverent gratitude; souls that have taught me that deepest of facts and of lessons,—the persistence, across the centuries, within the wide range of the visible and indeed also of the invisible Church, of that vivid sense of the finite and the Infinite, of that spacious joy and expansive freedom in self-donation to God, the prevenient, all-encompassing Spirit, of that massively spontaneous, elemental religion, of which Catherine is so noble an example. Thus a world-renouncing, world-conquering, virile piety, humble and daring, humane, tender and creatively strong, is at no time simply dead, but it merely sleepeth; indeed it ever can be found, alive, open-eyed[xvi] irresistible, hidden away here and there, throughout our earthly space and time.

In matters directly connected with the publication of the work I have especially to thank Messrs. Sciutto of Genoa, the photographers to whom I owe the very successful photographs from which the plates that stand at the head of my volumes have been taken; Mr. Sidney E. Mayle, publisher, of Hampstead, for permission to use the photogravure of St. Catherine’s portrait which appeared as an illustration to a paper of mine, in his scholarly Hampstead Annual, 1898; Miss Maude Petre, who helped me much towards achieving greater lucidity of style, by carefully reading and criticizing all my proofs; and my publisher, who has not shrunk from undertaking the publication of so long a work on so very serious, abstruse-seeming a subject. Even so, I have had to suppress the notes to my chapter on “Catherine’s Teaching,” which throughout showed the critical reasons that had determined my choice of the particular sayings, and the particular text of the sayings, adopted by me in the text; and have had to excise quite a third of my Appendix, which furnished the analysis of further, critically instructive texts of the Vita e Dottrina, the Dicchiarazione and the Dialogo. If a new edition is ever called for, this further material might be added, and would greatly increase the cogency of my argument.

The work that now at last I thus submit to the reader, is doubtless full of defects; and I shall welcome any thoughtful criticism of any of its parts as a true kindness. Yet I would point out that all these parts aim at being but so many constituents of a whole, within which alone they gain their true significance and worth. Hence only by one who has studied and pondered the book as a whole, will any of its parts be criticized with fairness to that part’s intention. To gain even but a dozen of such readers would amply repay the labour of these many years.

I take it that the most original parts are Chapter Eight, with its analysis of Battista Vernazza’s interesting Diary; the Appendix, with its attempts at fixing the successive authors and intentions that have built up the Vita e Dottrina; Chapter Nine, which attempts to assign to psycho-physical matters, as we now know them, their precise place and function within the vast life-system, and according to the practical[xvii] tests, of the great Mystical Saints; and Chapter Fifteen, with its endeavour to picture that large Asceticism which alone can effect, within the same soul, a fruitful co-habitation of, and interaction between, Social Religion, the Scientific Habit of Mind, and the Mystical Element of Religion.

Kirkegaard used to claim that he ever wrote existentially, pricked on by the exigencies of actual life, to attempt their expression in terms of that life, and in view of its further spiritual development. More than ever the spiritual life appears now as supremely worth the having, and yet it seems to raise, or to find, the most formidable difficulties or even deadlocks. I can but hope that these pages may have so largely sprung from the exigencies of that life itself,—that they may have caught so much of the spirit of the chief livers of the spiritual life, especially of St. Catherine of Genoa and of St. John of the Cross, and, above all, of the One Master and Measure of Christianity and of the Church,—as to stimulate such life, its practice, love and study, in their readers, and may point them, spur them on, through and beyond all that here has been attempted, missed or obscured, to fuller religious insight, force and fruitfulness.

Friedrich Von Hügel.

Easter 1908.


“Grant unto men, O God, to perceive in little things the indications, common-seeming though they be, of things both small and great.”

St. Augustine, Confessions, Bk. XI, ch. xxiii, 1.



The frontispiece photogravure reproduces an oil-painting preserved in the sacristy of the Santissima Annunciata in Portorio, the Church of the Pammatone Hospital in Genoa. This painting is probably a copy (perhaps not older than 1737) of the portrait which hangs in the superioress’s room in the same hospital, and which is presumably the picture referred to by documents as extant in 1512, eighteen months after Catherine’s death. The copy has been reproduced in preference to the original, because the original has been considerably and clumsily restored, whereas the copy gives us the older portrait as it existed before this restoration.

Chapter I.—The Three Chief Forces of Western Civilization3-49
I.The First of the Three Forces: Hellenism, the Thirst for Richness and Harmony10-25
II.The Second of the Three Forces: Christianity, the Revelation of Personality and Depth25-39
III.The Third Force: Science, the Apprehension and Conception of Brute Fact and Iron Law39-48
IV.Summing up: Hellenism or Harmonization, Christianity or Spiritual Experience, and Science or Acceptance of a Preliminary Mechanism, all three necessary to Man48, 49
Chapter II.—the Three Elements of Religion50-82
I.The Three Elements, as they successively appear in the Child, the Youth, and the Adult Man50-53
II.Each Element ever accompanied by some amount of the other two. Difficulty of the Transition from one Stage to the other53-55
III.Parallels to this Triad of Religious Elements55-58
IV.Distribution of the Three Elements amongst Mankind and throughout Human History58-65
[xx]V.Causes operative in all Religion towards minimizing or suppressing one or other Element, or towards denying the need of any Multiplicity65-70
VI.The Special Motives operating in each Element towards the suppression of the other Elements70-77
VII.Three Final Objections to such a conception of Religion, and their Answers77-82
Chapter III.—Catherine Fiesca Adorna’s Life, up to her Conversion; and the Chief Peculiarities predominant throughout her Convert Years.85-127
Introductory85, 86
I.Proposed Study of the Mystical-Volitional Element in a Particular, Concrete Instance: St. Catherine of Genoa86-90
II.The Materials and Aids towards such a Study90-93
III.Peculiarities of the Genoese Climate and Geographical Position; of the Ligurian Character; and of the Times into which Catherine was born. Her Family, Father and Mother93-97
IV.Catherine’s Life, up to the Preliminaries of her Conversion: Autumn 1447 to Mid-March 147497-104
V.Her Conversion, with its immediate Preliminaries and Consequences, March 1474104-109
VI.The Two Conceptions concerning the Character and Rationale of her Penitential Period and of her whole Convert Life. The Position adopted here109-113
VII.Catherine and the Holy Eucharist113-116
VIII.Catherine and Confession and Direction117-123
IX.Catherine and Indulgences123-126
X.Peculiarities concerning the Invocation of Saints and Intercessory Prayer126, 127
Chapter IV.—Catherine’s Life from 1473 to 1506, and its Main Changes and Growth128-174
I.First Period of Catherine’s Convert Life: Giuliano’s Bankruptcy and Conversion; their Work among the Poor, March 1473 to May 1477128-131
II.Catherine and Tommasa Fiesca: their Difference of Character and attrait. Peculiarity of Catherine’s Penitence and Health during this Time131-133
III.Change in the Temper of Catherine’s Penitence, from May 1474 onwards133-135
IV.Catherine’s Great Fasts135-137
V.Second, Central Period of Catherine’s Convert Life, 1477-1499: its Special Spiritual Features138-141
[xxi]VI.Catherine and Giuliano move into the Hospital in 1479, never again to quit it. She is Matron from 1490 to 1495141-143
VII.Catherine and the Plague. The Outbreak of 1493143-145
VIII.Catherine and Ettore Vernazza, 1493-1495145-147
IX.Catherine’s Health breaks down, 1496; other Events of the same Year147-149
X.Events of 1497149-154
XI.Beginning of her Third, Last Period; End of the Extraordinary Fasts; First Relations with Don Marabotto155-159
XII.Her Conversations with her Disciples; “Caterina Serafina.” Don Marabotto and the Possessed Maid159-162
XIII.Catherine’s Sympathy with Animal-and Plant-Life: her Love of the Open Air. Her Deep Self-knowledge as to the Healthiness or Morbidness of her Psycho-physical States163-166
XIV.Catherine’s Social Joys and Sorrows, 1501-1507166-174
Chapter V.—Catherine’s Last Four Years, 1506-1510. Sketch of her Character, Doctrine, and Spirit175-250
I.Catherine’s External Interests and Activities up to May 1510. Occasional slight Deviations from her old Balance. Immensely close Interconnection of her whole Mental and Psycho-physical Nature. Impressions as connected with the Five Senses175-181
II.More or less Maladif Experiences and Actions182-200
III.Catherine’s History from May to September 9, 1510200-211
IV.The Last Six Days of Catherine’s Life, September 10-15211-219
V.Sketch of Catherine’s Spiritual Character and Significance220-250
Chapter VI. Catherine’s Doctrine251-294
I.God as Creative Love. The Creature’s True and False Self; True and False Love260-266
I.Sin, Purification, Illumination266-272
III.The Three Categories and the Two Ways273-280
IV.The Other Worlds281-294
Chapter VII.—Catherine’s Remains and Cultus; the Fate of her Two Priest Friends and of her Domestics; and the remaining History of Ettore Vernazza295-335
Introductory295, 296
I.The Burial and the Events immediately surrounding it. September 15 to December 10, 1510296-300
[xxii]II.The Different Removals of the Remains, and the Chief Stages of her Official Cultus300-306
III.The Fate of Catherine’s Priest Friends307-311
IV.The Fate of Catherine’s Three Maid-servants311-314
V.The Two Vernazzas: their Debt to Catherine, and Catherine’s Debt to them314, 315
VI.Ettore Vernazza’s Life, from 1509 to 1512316-321
VII.Ettore in Rome and Naples; his Second Will; his Work in the Genoese Prisons321-329
VIII.Ettore again in Naples; his Death in Genoa, June 1524; Peculiarities of his Posthumous Fame329-335
Chapter VIII.—Battista Vernazza’s Life336-367
Introductory336, 337
I.Battista’s Life, from April 1497 to June 1510337-339
II.Battista and her God-father, Tommaso Moro339-344
III.Battista’s Colloquies, November 1554 to Ascension Day 1555344-358
IV.Some further Letters of Battista, 1575-1581358-366
V.Battista’s Death, May 1587366, 367
Wherein lies the Secret of Spiritual Persuasiveness367-370
Chronological Account and Critical Analysis of the Materials for the Re-constitution of Saint Catherine’s Life and Teaching371-466
Introduction: The Three Laws that govern the Growth of Religious Biography; Complexity of the Materials for Catherine’s Life371-376
First Division: Account and Analysis of the Documents previous, and immediately subsequent to, the “Vita e Dottrina” with the “Dicchiarazione,” in Seven Stages376-433
I.First Stage: August 1456 to September 12, 1510, all Legal376-380
II.Second Stage: Five further Official and Legal Documents, 1511-1526; and Four Mortuary Dates, 1524-1587380, 381
[xxiii]III.Third Stage: Bishop Giustiniano’s Account of Catherine’s Life, Remains, and Biography, 1537382-384
IV.Fourth Stage: The Two Oldest Extant Manuscripts of the “Vita e Dottrina” with the “Dicchiarazione.” Manuscript A (October 1547 to February 1548), and Manuscript B384-395
V.Fifth Stage: Manuscript C (copy of a MSS. of 1550?), first appearance of the “Dialogo,” “Chapter” First395-410
VI.Sixth Stage: First Printed Edition of the “Vita-Dottrina-Dicchiarazione,” 1551; Examination of all it possesses in addition to Manuscripts A, B, and C, apart from the “Dialogo”411-417
VII.Seventh Stage: The Second “Chapter” of the “Dialogo,” which appears for the first time in the Printed “Vita,” 1551417-424
VIII.Seventh Stage continued: Minute Analysis of one Passage from the Second “Chapter”424-427
IX.Seventh Stage concluded: Character and Authorship of this Second “Chapter”427-433
Second Division: Analysis, Assignation, and Appraisement of the “Vita-Dottrina-Dicchiarazione” Corpus, in Eight Sections433-466
I.The “Dicchiarazione”: the Two Stages of its Existence434-440
II.The Earlier “Dicchiarazione,” and its Theological Glosses440-447
III.Five Conclusions concerning the History of the “Dicchiarazione”447-449
IV.The “Vita”-Proper, its Divisions and Parts, and its Chief Secondary and Authentic Constituents449-453
V.Age and Authorship of the Literature retained453-457
VI.Analysis of the Conversion-Narratives458-462
VII.The Sayings-Passages: Three Tests for discriminating Authentic from Secondary Sayings462, 463
VIII.Conclusion: At least Six Stages in the Upbuilding of the Complete Book of 1551. The Slight Changes introduced since then. First Claims to Authorship for Catherine463-466


“He is not far from every one of us; for in Him we live, and move, and have our being.”—Acts xvii, 27, 28.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”—2 Corinthians iii, 17.







1. An enigma of life: the Universal and Abiding does not move the will; and what does move it is Individual and Evanescent.

Amongst the apparent enigmas of life, amongst the seemingly most radical and abiding of interior antinomies and conflicts experienced by the human race and by individuals, there is one which everything tends to make us feel and see with an ever-increasing keenness and clearness. More and more we want a strong and interior, a lasting yet voluntary bond of union between our own successive states of mind, and between what is abiding in ourselves and what is permanent within our fellow-men; and more and more we seem to see that mere Reasoning, Logic, Abstraction,—all that appears as the necessary instrument and expression of the Universal and Abiding,—does not move or win the will, either in ourselves or in others; and that what does thus move and win it, is Instinct, Intuition, Feeling, the Concrete and Contingent, all that seems to be of its very nature individual and evanescent. Reasoning appears but capable, at best, of co-ordinating, unifying, explaining the material furnished to it by experience of all kinds; at worst, of explaining it away; at best, of stimulating the purveyance of a fresh supply of such experience; at worst, of stopping such purveyance as much as may be. And yet the Reasoning would appear to be the transferable part in the process, but not to move; and the experience alone to have the moving power, but not to be transmissible.


2. Our personal experience as regards our own convictions.

Experience indeed and its resultant feeling are always, in the first instance, coloured and conditioned by every kind of individual many-sided circumstances of time and place, of race and age and sex, of education and temperament, of antecedent and environment. And it is this very particular combination, just this one, so conditioned and combined, coming upon me just at this moment and on this spot, just at this stage of my reach or growth, at this turning of my way, that carries with it this particular power to touch or startle, to stimulate or convince. It is just precisely through the but imperfectly analyzable, indeed but dimly perceived, individual connotation of general terms; it is by the fringe of feeling, woven out of the past doings and impressions, workings and circumstances, physical, mental, moral, of my race and family and of my own individual life; it is by the apparently slight, apparently far away, accompaniment of a perfectly individual music to the spoken or sung text of the common speech of man, that I am, it would seem, really moved and won.

And this fringe of feeling, this impression, is, strictly speaking, not merely untransferable, but also unrepeatable; it is unique even for the same mind: it never was before, it never will be again. Heraclitus, if we understand that old Physicist in our own modern, deeply subjective, largely sentimental way, would appear to be exactly right: you cannot twice step into the same stream, since never for two moments do the waters remain identical; you yourself cannot twice step the same man into the same river, for you have meanwhile changed as truly as itself has done, Πάντα ῥεῖ: all things and states, outward and inward, appear indeed in flux: only each moment seems to bring, to each individual, for that one moment, his power to move and to convince.

3. Our experience in our attempt to win others.

And if we transmit this emotion or conviction to another mind, or if we seem to be able to trace such transmission when it has been actually effected in ourselves or in others, we shall find that, in proportion as one mind feeds, not forces, another, the particular bond and organization of the mental and emotional picture which cost us so much, moved us so much, has, in each case, been snapped and broken up; the whole has been again resolved into its constituent elements, and only some of these elements have been taken up into the[5] already existing organization of the other mind, or have joined together in that mind, to form there a combination which is really new. Even a simple scent or sound or sight comes charged to each of us with many but most differing connotations, arousing or modifying or supplanting old or new ideas and impressions in the most subtle, complex, and individual manner. Insist upon another mind taking over the whole of this impression, and you will have rightly and necessarily aroused an immediate or remote hostility or revolt against the whole of what you bring. Hence here too we are again perplexed by the initial enigma: the apparently insurmountable individuality of all that affects us, and the equally insurmountable non-affectingness of all that is clearly and certainly transmissible from any one man to another.

4. This mysterious law appears to obtain in precise proportion to the depth and importance of the truths and realities in view.

And if we seem boxed up thus, each one away from our fellow, in all our really moving and determining inclinations and impressions, judgments and affections, with regard to matters on which we feel we can afford to differ deeply and to be much alone; we appear to be more and not less so, in exact proportion as the importance of the subject-matter increases. In moral and spiritual, in religious and fundamental matters, we thirst more, not less, for identity of conviction and of feeling; and we are, or seem to be, more, not less, profoundly and hopelessly at variance with each other than anywhere else.

And more than this: the apparent reason of this isolation seems but to aggravate the case, because here more than anywhere else imagination, feeling, intuition seem indeed to play a predominant, determining part; and yet here more than anywhere else we feel such a predominance to be fraught with every kind of danger. Thus here especially we feel as incapable of suppressing, indeed of doing without these forces, as of frankly accepting, studying, and cultivating them. Now and then we take alarm and are in a panic at any indication that these springs and concomitants of life are at work within us; yet we persist in doing little or nothing to find sufficient and appropriate food and scope and exercise for the right development and hence the real purification of these elemental forces, forces which we can stunt but cannot kill. Nothing, we most rightly feel, can be in greater or more subtle and[6] dangerous opposition to manly morality or enlightened religion than the seeking after or revelling in emotion; nothing, we most correctly surmise, can equal the power of strong feeling or heated imagination to give a hiding-place to superstition, sensuality, dreamy self-complacent indolence, arrogant revolt and fanaticism; nothing, even where such things seem innocent, appears less apt than do these fierce and fitful, these wayward and fleeting feelings, these sublimities and exquisitenesses, to help on that sober and stable, consistent and persistent, laborious upbuilding of moral and religious character, work, and evidence which alone are wanted more and more. Indeed, what would seem better calculated than such emotion to strain the nerves, to inflame the imagination, to blunt common-sense and that salt of the earth, the saving sense of the ridiculous, to deaden the springs of research and critical observation, to bring us, under the incalculably sapping influences of physical abnormalities, close up to where sanity shades off into madness, and ethical elevation breaks down into morbidness and depravity?

5. The experience of the human race: the two series of personalities, movements, races.

And the secular experience of the race would seem fully to bear out such suspicions. For have we not there a double series of personalities, events, and movements far too long and widespread not to be conclusive? On the one hand, there are those that seem to spring from dimly lit or dark feeling, to arise,—as it were, hydra-like, to sting and madden, or mist-like, to benumb all life, and turn it into mere drift and dreaming,—from out of the obscure, undrained, swampy places of human ignorance and passion. On the other hand, there are those that are formed and fashioned by clear, transparent thought; and these flourish in the cultivated, well-drained plains of human science and strict demonstration.

Among the first series, you have the Pantheistic schools and personalities of the decaying Roman Empire, Plotinus the Ecstatic, and Jamblichus, and such other dreamers, straining up into the blue; the somewhat similar, largely subterranean, Jewish and Christian sects and tendencies of the Middle Ages; the Anabaptist and other like groups, individualistic, fantastic, in considerable part anomistic and revolutionary, of the Reformation period; and such phenomena as the Eternal-Gospel troubles and the Quietistic controversy in the Roman Church. And above all, in the East, we have,[7] from time immemorial, whole races, (in the midst of a world crying aloud for help and re-fashioning, but which is left to stagnate and decay,) still dreaming away their lives in Buddhistic abstraction and indifference.

Among the second, the light, clear series, you have whole races, the luminous, plastic, immensely active Greek, the strong-willed, practical, organizing Roman, and the Anglo-Saxon determined “to stand no nonsense”; you have an Aristotle, sober, systematic; one side at least of the great Mediaeval Scholastic movement, culminating in St. Thomas, so orderly and transparent; above all, modern Physical Science, first subjecting all phenomena to rigorous quantitative and mathematical analysis and equation, and then reacting upon philosophy as well, and insisting, there and everywhere, upon clearness, direct comparableness, ready transferableness of ideas and their formulae, as the sole tests of truth. Descartes; Kepler, Galileo; Hobbes, Spinoza are, in increasing degrees, still perhaps the most perfect types of this clear and cool, this ultimately mathematical and Monistic tendency and position.

6. The dark, intuitive personalities and schools, apparently a mere stop-gap, transition, or reaction against the clear, discursive ones.

And further, the personalities and schools of the interiorly experimental, emotional kind seem to appear upon the scene but as stop-gaps or compensations for the other series, in periods of transition or reaction, of uncertainty or decay. So at the break-up of the Roman Empire (Neo-Platonism); so at the end of the Patristic period and just before the official acceptance of Scholasticism (St. Bernard); so during the foundering of the Mediaeval fabric of life and thought in the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (Pico, Paracelsus); so in the German Romanticism of sixty years ago, as a reaction against the survivals of the eighteenth-century Rationalism; so now again in our own day, more slightly, but not less really, in a revival of spiritual philosophy. It looks then as though the experimental-emotional strain could only thrive fitfully, on the momentary check or ruin of the clear and “scientific” school; as though it were a perhaps inevitable disease breaking in occasionally upon the normal health of the human mind. For the eventual result of the world’s whole movement surely seems to be the reclamation of ever-increasing stretches of knowledge and[8] theory from the dominion of vague, irresponsible, untestable feeling, and their incorporation in the domain of that unbroken, universal determinism, of those clear and simple, readily analyzable, verifiable, communicable, and applicable laws which, more and more, are found to rule phenomena wheresoever we may look.

7. This seems especially to apply to the Intuitive-Emotional element of Religion.

And if the prima facie trend of centuries of thought and conflict appears to rule out of court even such a fringe of individual experience and emotion as ever accompanies and stimulates all religion: the verdict of history, indeed of any survey of contemporary life, if only this be sufficiently large, would seem fatal to any type of religion in which this individual experience and emotion would form religion’s core and centre, as in the case of the specifically experimental-emotional school generally, and of the Mystics in particular.

To take some such survey, let us look, to begin with, outside of where Catholic discipline and unity somewhat obscure, at first sight, even the legitimate and indeed the really existing diversities of school and tendency. In the Church’s organism each divergence has ever been more largely tempered and supplemented by the others; and since the Reformation, indeed in part even more recently, owing to an entirely intelligible and in part inevitable, reaction, even most legitimate and persistent divergencies, which flourished in rich and enriching variety throughout the Middle Ages, have largely ceased to appear in any obvious and distinct embodiments. Let us look then first to where such diversities grow unchecked, and indeed generally tend to excess and caricature. Let us take contemporary English Protestantism, and then Foreign Protestantism in the large lines of its history. In both cases the experimental-emotional strain and group will seem to compare unfavourably with its competitors.

For if we look about us in England, we seem to have little difficulty in classing the tendencies within the Established Church under the headings of High, Broad, and Low; indeed we can readily extend this treble classification to all the various schools and bodies of English Protestantism. We can easily conceive of the greater portion of English Nonconformity as but a prolongation and accentuation of the Evangelical school in the Established Church: the readiness[9] and ease with which the former at certain moments unite and coalesce with the latter, show quite conclusively how close is the affinity between them. We almost as readily think of the Unitarian and Theistic bodies as prolongations and further sublimations of the Anglican Broad Church view, though here, no doubt, the degrees and kinds of difference are more numerous and important. And if it would be hard to find an extension, still more an accentuation, of the Anglican High Church party amongst the English Nonconformists, a strain largely identical with the sacerdotal current elsewhere has always existed in the Presbyterian churches. Nor must we forget the powerful and constant, both repellent and attractive, influence exercised by Rome upon even those outside of her obedience. To be quite philosophical, the survey ought to include all types of English Christianity; and, in that case, the High Church position would rank rather as a dilution, as a variety, incomplete and inconsistent though it be, of the type represented most strikingly and emphatically by Rome, than as a variant of the types having their centres at Wittenberg and Geneva.

And if we next turn to German Protestantism, especially to the simultaneous variations of its short-lived, fluid, formative period, we shall there too find this treble tendency. The Evangelical strain will be represented here by the numerous Illuminist and Anabaptist personalities, groups and movements to which Luther himself had given occasion, which but emphasized or caricatured his own earlier Mysticism; but which, when they threatened, by their revolutionary, communistic fanaticism and violence, completely to discredit and ruin his own movement, he suppressed with such ruthless and illogical severity. And the Broad Church strain will here be found emphasized and caricatured in Socinianism, and in such milder forms of Rationalism as prepared the way for it or followed in its wake. And finally, the High Church strain is not so hard to discover in much of the doctrine and in some of the forms and externals of Orthodox, official Lutheranism. Indeed in foreign Protestantism generally,—in Zwinglianism, in Calvinism, and in its other bodies and sects, we can trace various forms of, and degrees of approximation to, one or other of these three types, the Historical, the Experimental, the Rational.

Now looking at the scene of battle, for the moment quite generally, it would seem as though, of these three types and[10] tendencies, the Emotional and Experimental had proved itself decidedly the weakest for good, the strongest for evil of the three, and this both in the past and in the present, both in England and abroad. We have here in England, in the past, the Puritan excesses in Ireland, Scotland, and England itself; and later on and down to the present, the largely dreary and unlovely, narrow and unjust monotony of Evangelicalism. We have there abroad, in the past, the Peasants’ War and the Anabaptist Saturnalia at Münster; and later on and down to the present, that Pietism which has so often barred the way to a just appreciation of Historical Christianity and to a candid acceptance of rational methods and results, and this without its being able to find any constructive or analytic working principle of its own. Both in England and in Germany, indeed throughout the cultivated West, only the Historical, Traditional school on the one hand, and the Rationalistic, Scientific school on the other hand, seem to count at all: it is they which alone seem to gain ground, or at least to hold it, at the Universities and amongst the thinking, ruling classes generally.

8. Yet this adverse judgment will appear largely misleading, if we study the matter more fully.

And yet this first aspect of things will, I think, turn out to be largely deceptive, to be but one side and one teaching of that noble inheritance, that great output of life and experience, past and present, which is ready to our hand for ever-renewed study and assimilation in human history and society, and which, taken as it really is,—as the indefinite prolongation of our own little individual direct experiences,—can alone help us to give to these latter experiences a full, life-regulating value. Let us take then the foregoing objections, and let us do so as but so many starting-points and openings into our great subject. This preliminary discussion will but prepare the ground and method for the following detailed study, and for the final positions of the whole book. Indeed even the book’s opening question can be answered only by the whole book and at our labour’s end.

I. The First of the Three Forces: Hellenism, the Thirst for Richness and Harmony.

We revert then to the apparent interior antinomy from which we started,—the particular concrete experience which[11] alone moves us and helps to determine our will, but which, seemingly, is untransferable, indeed unrepeatable; and the general, abstract reasoning which is repeatable, indeed transferable, but which does not move us or help directly to determine the will. And we here begin by the study of the antinomy, as this has been explicated for us by Hellenism, the earliest and widest of the three main mental, indeed spiritual, forces that are operative within each of us Westerns, on and on.

1. The antinomy in the pre-Socratics.

Heraclitus appeared to us an impressive exponent of the former truth, of the apparent utter evanescence of these particular impressions and experiences, of the complete shiftingness of the very faculty within us and of the environment without us, by which and in which we apprehend them. An ever-changing self in the midst of an ever-changing world, basing its persuasiveness and persuadableness, indeed even its conscious identity with itself and its communion with others, upon the ever-changing resultants of all these changes: this would surely seem to be a house built not upon the sand but upon the quicksands.

Now we have to remember that Parmenides had, already in early Greek times, been equally emphatic, perhaps equally impressive, on the other side of this very question,—on the impossibility of Becoming, of Change; and on the certainty and knowableness of the utter Oneness and Permanence of all Being.[1] All that really is, he maintained, excludes all Becoming: the very notion of Being is incompatible with that of Becoming: the first is utterly without the second. All real Becoming would be equivalent to the real existence of Non-Being. Hence all Multiplicity and Becoming is necessarily but apparent, and masks an underlying absolute Unity and Permanence, which can be reached by the intellect alone. And this position of Parmenides was felt to be so strong, that all the subsequent Greek Physicists took their stand upon it: the four unchangeable elements of Empedocles, the Atoms of Leucippus and Democritus (atoms of eternally unchanging shape and size, and of one absolutely uniform and unchanging quality) are but modifications of the doctrine of Parmenides concerning the Oneness and Unchangeableness of Being.


But even Heraclitus himself is far removed from denying all Oneness, all Permanence. For, according to him, a permanent law of permutation runs through and expresses itself in the shiftingness of all things perceptible by sense; or rather one eternal physical substance, Fire, of ceaselessly active properties, is continually manifesting itself, in a regular succession of appearances, from fire to air, from air to water, from water to earth, and then backwards up again to fire.

And when once the Greeks begin to break away from all this Hylozoism,—these systems which uniformly, from Thales to Democritus, attempt to explain all things by some one living or moving Matter, without the intervention of Spirit or of Mind,—Spirit appears in Anaxagoras as the One, and as present, everywhere and in varying degrees, as the principle of the motion of that co-eternal matter which is here, on the contrary, conceived of as but apparently homogeneous anywhere, and as really composed of an indefinite number and combination of qualitatively differing constituents.

Thus in all its schools, even before Socrates and Plato, Greek philosophy clung to the One and the One’s reality, however differently it conceived the nature of this Unity, and however much it may have varied as to the nature and reality of the Many, or as to the relation and the bond subsisting between that Unity and this Multiplicity. Only at the end of this first period do the Sophists introduce, during a short time marked by all the symptoms of transition, uncertainty, and revolution, the doctrine, of the unknowableness, indeed of the unreality, of the One, and with it of the exclusive reality of mere Multiplicity, of evanescent Appearances.

2. In Socrates.

But Socrates opens out the second and greatest period of Greek philosophy, by reverting to, indeed by indefinitely deepening, the general conviction that Oneness underlies Multiplicity. And he does so through the virtual discovery of, and a ceaseless insistence upon, two great new subject-matters of philosophy: Dialects and Ethics. It is true that in both these respects the Sophists had prepared the ground: they had, before him and all around him, discussed everything from every then conceivable point of view; and they had, at the same time, helped to withdraw man’s attention from pure speculation about physical nature to practical occupation with himself. But the Sophistic Dialectic[13] had ended in itself, in universal negation and scepticism; and the Sophistic Anthropology had, partly as cause, partly as effect of that scepticism, more and more completely narrowed and dragged down all human interest, capacity, and activity to a selfish, materialistic self-aggrandizement and a frank pleasure-seeking. Socrates indeed took over both these subjects; but he did so in a profoundly different spirit, and worked them into a thoroughly antagonistic view of knowledge and of life.

Socrates begins, like the Sophists, with the Multiplicity of impression and opinion, which we find occasioned by one and the same question or fact; and like them he refuses to take the Physicists’ short cut of immediate and direct occupation with things and substances, say the elements. Slowly and laboriously he works his way, by the help of Dialectics, (for these have now become a means and not an end,) around and through and into the various apprehensions, and, at last, out of and beyond them, to a satisfactory concept of each thing. And the very means taken to arrive at this concept, and the very test which is applied to the concept, when finally arrived at, for gauging the degree of its finality, both these things help to deepen profoundly the sense of a certain Multiplicity in all Oneness and of a certain Oneness in all Multiplicity. For the means he takes are a careful and (as far as may be) exhaustive and impartial discussion and analysis of all the competing and conflicting notions and connotations occasioned by each matter in dispute; and the test he applies to the final concept, in view of gauging the degree of its finality, is how far this concept reconciles and resolves within its higher unity all such various and contrary aspects suggested by the thing, as have stood the brunt of the previous discussion and have thereby proved themselves true and objective.

Socrates again, like the Sophists, turns his attention away from Physics to Ethics; he drops speculation about external nature, and busies himself with the interior life and development of man. But the world in which Socrates’ method necessarily conceives and places man, and the work and standard which he finds already latent in each man, for that man to do and to endorse in himself and in the world, are both entirely different from those of the Sophists, and occasion a still further, indeed the greatest of all possible deepenings of the apprehension of Oneness and of Multiplicity.


For the world of Socrates is a world in which Reality and Truth reign and are attainable by man; never does he even ask whether truth is or can be reached by us, but only what it is and where it lies and how it can be attained. And since Socrates instinctively shares the profoundly Greek conviction that Reality and Truth are necessarily not only one but unchanging, he assumes throughout that, since Truth and Reality do exist, Oneness and unchanging Being must exist also. And thus the Oneness of Reality and the Multiplicity of Appearance are re-established by him in Greek philosophy. And their apprehension is indefinitely deepened and extended, since, whatever is being knowable, and knowable only through Dialectics, and Dialectics having left us with concepts each in a sense a one and a many, Life itself, Reality and all Nature must, somehow and to some extent, be also a one and a many. And man according to Socrates is required, already as a simple consequence of such convictions, to discover and acknowledge and organize the One and the Many in his own interior life and faculties. For if his senses tell him of the Many, and his reason alone tells him of the One, and the Many are but appearances and the One alone is fully real,—then it will be in and through his reason that he is and will be truly man.

Thus immediately within himself does man have a continuous, uniquely vivid experience of the One and the Many, and of the necessity, difficulty, and fruitfulness of their proper organization; and from hence he will reflect them back upon the outer world, adding thus indefinitely, by means of Ethics, to the delicacy and depth of his apprehension of such Oneness and Multiplicity as, by means of Dialectics, he has already found there. But further, he now thus becomes conscious, for the first time at all adequately, of the difference between his own body and his own mind. And here he has no more a Oneness and a Multiplicity, he is directly conscious of a Oneness in Multiplicity, of a ruling and organizing power of the mind in and over the body; and the One here is unseen and spiritual, and the Many is here found to be an organism of forces and of functions designed, with profound wisdom, to correspond with and to subserve the soul. And this Microcosm is readily taken as a key and an analogy wherewith to group and explain the appearances of the world without. Much appears in that outer world as unreduced to system; but then similarly within us much is still in a state of chaos, of revolt. In that world[15] no one ruler can be directly perceived; but then similarly within us, the one ruling mind is perceptible only in its effects. And this inner organization, ever required more than realized, is not a matter of abstract speculation, of subtle induction, adjournable at will; it is a clamorous consciousness, it is a fact that continually requires acts to back it or to break it. Strengthen it, and you have interior expansion and life; weaken it, and you bring on shrinkage and death. For the passions are there, active even if we refuse to be active, active against us and above us, if not under us and for us; and their submission to the reason, to effort, cannot fail, once our attention is fully turned that way, more than anything else to keep alive and to deepen our sense of the organization of all that lives, of the presence of the One and the Many, of the One in the Many, in all that truly lives at all.

3. In Plato.

Now this dialectical method and this ethical subject-matter get applied, investigated, and developed, with ever-increasing complexity and interaction, by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the three spiritual generations of this, the greatest period of Greek Philosophy. And the more penetrating the method becomes, and the more deeply it probes the subject-matter, the more intense and extensive is found to be this Unity in Multiplicity both within man and without him.

In the teaching of Socrates both the method and the apprehension of Unity and Multiplicity are as yet, so to speak, in bud. Dialectics are here still chiefly a Method, and hardly as yet a Metaphysic as well. The soul here is as yet but simply one, and virtue is also simply one, and simply and directly identical with knowledge, and hence directly teachable: the very possibility that the will may not or indeed cannot follow, necessarily, automatically, the clear perception of what is really good for it, is one quite foreign to the mind of Socrates, indeed to all Greek thinkers up to the very end of the classical philosophy.

In Plato the methods and the results are both, as it were, in flower. Dialectics have here become both a systematic method, and a metaphysical system: not only are Ideas true, and the only means for reaching truth, but they alone are true, they alone fully are, and exist as separate self-subsisting realities. And as in the world within, Goodness is, in this profoundly ethical system, seen and willed and striven for as supreme, so also in the world without, is the Idea of Goodness[16] considered as existing supreme from all eternity, and as somehow the Cause of all that truly is.

It is true that Plato nowhere succeeds in finding in his system a fitting place for a Personal God: for, among other reasons, the Platonic Ideas are all, from the lowest to the highest, but Hypostasized Concepts of Kinds, and are hence, quite consistently, considered to be perfect and supreme, in precise proportion as they are general. The highest Idea will thus of necessity be the most general, the most devoid of all determination, and hence the least personal of them all.

It is true also that in his Metaphysics generally he insists so much upon the complete severance and self-sufficingness of the Ideas as over against Appearances, that he prepares his own inevitable failure again to bridge over the gulf that he himself has thus dug too deep and broad. Especially is his half-suggestion misleading, that the transition to Phenomenal Multiplicity is but a further extension of the Multiplicity already observable in the world of Ideas. For these two Multiplicities are evidently entirely different in kind. Each Idea is conceived as necessarily eternal, unchanging, complete and perfect in its own way; whereas each appearance is conceived as necessarily temporal, changing, incomplete, and imperfect even in its own way.

It is true again, that, in Psychology, Plato breaks up the Soul into the three parts of the Reason, the Irascible Passions, and the Concupiscible Passions, and that he discriminates between them even as to their place of residence in the body. And correspondingly he distinguishes, in Ethics, the four Cardinal Virtues, Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance, and Justice: he distributes the first three virtues among the three parts of the soul, allotting ever one of these virtues specially to one part; and makes Justice to be the general virtue that sees to each part carrying out its own special work and virtue, and respecting the work of the other two. And thus we seem to get away from the Oneness of the soul and the Oneness of virtue, as already taught by Socrates.

It is finally true that not only does Matter remain unexplained and treated as though in itself a mere nothing; but that it is considered, nevertheless, as somehow strong enough to hinder and hamper the Idea which really constitutes that Matter’s sole reality. Hence also springs Plato’s saddening aloofness from and contempt for all trades and handicrafts, for all the homely tastes, joys, and sorrows at all peculiar to[17] the toiling majority. And herein he but considerably deepens and systematizes one of the weakest and most ruinous traditions of his class, age, and people, and falls far short of Socrates, with his deep childlike love of homely wisdom and of technical skill and productiveness. Indeed Matter is considered to be the one occasion of all sin, just as ignorance is considered to be the one true cause of sin. For although Plato throughout holds and proclaims free-will, in the definite sense of freedom of choice; and although he, in some passages, declares the ignorance which (according to him) is the necessary condition of a wrong choice, to be itself voluntary and culpable and to spring from an avoidable attachment to the world of sense: yet he clings, nevertheless, to the Socratic position that all ignorance and immorality are involuntary, that no man does or can act against what he sees to be for his own good.

All this would of itself suffice to show how and why the Platonic system has, as such, long ceased to live or to be capable of resuscitation. And yet even some of the apparent weaknesses just referred to are nearly or even entirely strong points in his scheme. So with his treble division of the Soul, if we but soften the distinction of actual parts into a difference of function or of object. For, already in Plato’s own judgment, these parts admit of and require a regular hierarchy of subordination: the Irascible part is the natural ally, if properly tamed and broken in by the Reason, of this Reason against the Concupiscible part: it is the winged steed amongst the two horses of the chariot of the soul, and the charioteer, the Reason, has to see to it that this his winged steed flies not recklessly, but lends all its strength to keep its heavy, wingless, downwards-tending yoke-fellow from plunging them all into the deep and dark. Hence all this really makes for a true, because rich and laborious, Unity in Multiplicity. The same applies to the scheme of the four Cardinal Virtues; for here also there is a balancing and interaction of forces and of duties, which together are well fitted to deepen and fruitfully to unify the soul.

But above all, there are four main conceptions which, with varying degrees and kinds of clearness, consistency, and proof, run throughout the Dialogues, and which not all the ever-increasing perception of the complexity of their implications, nor all the never-ending costingness of their reproduction, have long kept mankind from accepting and working[18] into their own inner life and into their outlook and labour upon the world without.

There is, first, the sense of the Universal nature of philosophy. Philosophy is here not a science alongside of other sciences, nor a sect existing with a view to the advantage of its members, nor a substitute for religion or science, art or action; but it stands for the totality of all mental activity, the nearest approach to an adequate realization of the reasonable nature of man. Hence philosophy has constant relations with all departments of human thought and action; or rather they all, with their several methods and ideals, come to enrich and stimulate philosophy, whilst philosophy, in return, reacts upon them all, by clarifying and harmonizing them each with itself and each with all the others.

There is, next, the constant conviction of the reality of moral accountableness on the one hand, and of the strength of the passions and of the allurements of sense on the other, of the costing ethical character of the search for light and truth, of the ceaseless necessity of a turning of the whole man, of conversion. “As the bodily eye cannot turn from darkness to light without the turning of the whole body, so too when the eye of the soul is turned round, the whole soul must be turned from the world of generation unto that of Being, and become able to endure the sight of Being, and of the brightest and best part of Being, that is to say of the Good.”[2] Hence Philosophy is a Redemption, a Liberation, a Separation of the soul from the body, a Dying and seeking after death, a constant Purification and Recollection of the soul; and the four Cardinal Virtues are so many purifications;[3] and men who have once come to lay the blame of their own confusion and perplexity upon themselves, will hate themselves and escape from themselves into Philosophy, in order to become different and get rid of their former selves.[4]

There is, in the third place, the dominant consciousness of Multiplicity in Unity and of Unity in Multiplicity, and of the necessity of the soul’s ever moving from one to the other—moving out of itself and into the world of Multiplicity, of sense and exterior work; and moving back into itself, into the world of Unity, of spirit and interior rest. Hence there is and ought to be a double movement of the soul. And this double action does not continue on the same plane, but the[19] moving, oscillating soul is, according to the faithful thoroughness or cowardly slackness of these its movements, ever either mounting higher in truth and spirit, or falling lower away into the sensual and untruthful. For these its ascensions are “effortful,” painful, gradual; they are never fully finished here below, and they nowhere attain to that absolute knowledge which is possessed by God alone.[5] “We ought,” he tells us, “to strive and fly as swiftly as possible from hence thither. And to fly thither is to become like God”; but he adds, “as far as this is possible.”[6]

And there is, lastly, an unfailing faith in an unexhausted, inexhaustible, transcendent world of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, which gives of itself, but never gives itself wholly, to that phenomenal world which exists only by participation in it; and in a Supreme Goodness, felt and half conceived to be personal and self-communicative, as the cause of all that is anywhere beautiful and one and good.

These four characteristics of Universality, Conversion, Unification, Transcendence, we find them together in Greek philosophy once, and once only, namely in Plato. Twice again we have indeed a world-embracing, world-moving scheme placed before us, and in each case two of these four characteristics reappear in a deepened and developed form. For Aristotle works out, more fully and satisfactorily than Plato, the characters of Universality and of Unification; especially does the latter find a great improvement. And Plotinus insists, even more constantly and movingly than Plato, upon Conversion as a necessary means, and upon Transcendence as a necessary characteristic of all true philosophy. But Aristotle has lost the Conversion from out of his scheme, and also the Transcendence conceived as at the same time immanent in the world; and Plotinus has lost the Universality, and the Unification conceived as a Unity in Multiplicity.

4. In Aristotle.

As to Aristotle, the improvements upon Plato are marked and many. There is the doctrine of the non-existence of the General apart from the Particular; the doctrine of Matter as not simple Non-Being, but as Not-yet-Being, the Possible, the Not-yet-Actual, which is waiting the presence of the Form to give it the Actuality for which it is destined, since[20] Matter requires Form, and Form requires Matter; and the doctrine, here first fully developed, of Motion, the Moved and the Moving.

Since all Motion, Change, Natural Life spring from Form (and a particular Form), working in and with Matter (a particular and appropriate Matter), the ultimate First Moving Cause must Itself be all-moving and all-unmoved, that is, it must be Pure Form. We thus get the first at all adequate philosophical presentation of Theism: for this Pure Form is then shown to be eternal, unchanging, all thought, self-thinking, and absolutely distinct from the world which it moves. In all other real Beings the Form has, in various degrees, to contend with the manifold impediments of Matter; and in proportion to the Form’s success, does the resultant Being stand high in the scale of Creation. The plant, with its vegetative and plastic soul, stands lowest in the scale of organic life; next comes the animal, with its sensitive and motive soul; and highest stands man, with his rational and volitional soul. And each higher Being takes over, as the lower part of his own nature, the functions and powers of the lower Being; and hence, since all Beings constitute so many several parts of the world’s systematic whole, they are all deserving of the closest study. And Man, destined to be the highest constituent of this whole, can become so only by moving as much as may be out of his entanglement in the lower, the passive functions of his soul, and identifying himself with his true self, with that active power, that pure reason which, itself pure Form, finds its proper objects in the Forms of all things that are.

Thus we get a system of a certain grand consistency and an impressively constant re-application of certain fundamental ideas to every kind of subject-matter. But the Platonic Dualism, though everywhere vigorously attacked, is yet nowhere fully overcome.

For in Metaphysics, Plato’s “One alongside of the Many” becomes with Aristotle the “One throughout the Many”: to the mind of the latter, the Separate General, Pure Form as existing without Matter, is a mere abstraction; Matter without Form is a simple potentiality; Matter and Form together, and they only, constitute the Particular, and (in and by it) all actual and full Reality. And only Reality, in the highest and primary sense, can, according to him, form the highest and primary object of Knowledge. Yet knowledge never refers to the Particular, but always to the General; and, in[21] the Particular, only to the General manifested in it. And this is the case, not because, though the Particular is the fuller Reality, we can more easily reach the General within it; but, on the contrary, because, though we can more easily reach the Particular, the General alone is abiding and fully true and really knowable.

Again, for Aristotle the Particular, which alone really exists, is constituted a particular and really existent Being, in virtue of its participation in Matter; but it is constituted as abiding, true, and knowable, in virtue of its Form. The cause of its Reality is thus different from that of its Truth; the addition of the simple Potentiality of Matter has alone given Reality to the pure Actuality of Form.

Finally, for Aristotle all Movement, as comprehensive of every kind of change, being defined as the transition from Potentiality to Reality, as the determination of Matter by Form, can be called forth, in the last resort, only by a pure Form which, though the cause of all Motion, is itself unmoved, is pure Thought and Speculation, a thinking of thinking,—God eternally thinking God and Himself alone. Yet this God is, if thus safely distinguished from the world, yet hardly more Personal than Spirit was in Anaxagoras, or the Idea of Good was in Plato. For not only does Aristotle refuse Him a body and all psychic life, but with them he eliminates all Doing and all Producing, all Emotion and all Willing, indeed all Thinking except that of His own lonely Self-Contemplation. And yet the activity of the will is as essential to Personality as that of thinking; and thinking again we can conceive as personal only if conditioned by a diversity of objects and a variety of mental states. And this God’s relations with the world are strangely few and still curiously materialistic. For He but sets the world in motion, and has no special care for it or detailed rule over it; and since, of the three or four kinds of motion, spacial motion is declared to be the primary one, and its most perfect form to be the circular, and since a circle moves quickest at its circumference, He is conceived as imparting to the world a spacial and a circular movement, and this, apparently, from a point in space, since He does so from outside. His transcendence is, so far, but a spacial one.

In Physics, Aristotle still constantly describes Nature as an harmonious, reasonable Being, an all-effecting force. There is here a mythical strain at work, and yet nowhere is a subject[22] clearly defined to which these various qualities could be attributed.

In Anthropology again, the active soul, the rational and free-willing, the immortal principle, is that which specially distinguishes and constitutes Humanity, and which indeed is the Form of the lower soul-powers and of the body as well. Yet it is these lower soul-powers, it is the passive, the vegetative and sensitive, the mortal soul-powers which, in and with the body, constitute this particular man, and only particular men are really existent. Where and how then is this living man’s Personality, his indelible consciousness of the unity of his nature, to arise and to be found in all this medley?

And finally, in Ethics, Aristotle maintains and develops, it is true, the great Socratic tradition of conceiving all virtue as active, and demands with Plato that the whole man should, as much as may be, put himself into all his moral acts. Indeed Aristotle makes here the great advance of definitely denying the Socratic doctrine that virtue consists in knowledge, and of abolishing the Platonic distinction between ordinary and philosophic virtue. All moral qualities are, according to him, matters of the will; and arise, in the first instance, not through instruction, but through exercise and education. But in place of Plato’s grandly organic, though still too abstract scheme of the Cardinal Virtues, each of the three partial ones pressing upwards and requiring and completing the others, and all three bound together by the general fourth, we get a more detailed and experimental, but only loosely co-ordinated enumeration and description of the virtuous habits, all of them so many means between two vicious extremes. The purificatory, recollective, self-fleeing, grandly organic, deeply religious tone and drift of Plato’s philosophy, that priceless conviction that we must give all if we would gain all, has disappeared.

Everywhere then we get in Aristotle that noble Greek insistence, upon Action and Energy, upon Reason and Clearness, upon the General and Unification. But at all the chief turning-points we get a conflict between the General, which is alone supposed to be fully true, and the Particular, which is alone supposed to be fully real. And hence we are left with an insufficient apprehension of the inexhaustibleness of all Reality, of its indefinite apprehensibleness but ever inadequate apprehendedness. And above all, as both cause and effect of all this, we find here only a slight and intermittent[23] hold upon the great fact and force of Personality in both God and man. In a word, if in Plato the abstracting process went in general still further than in Aristotle: in Aristotle the supply of experimental material of a spiritual kind which in Plato was ever enriching, supplementing and correcting the abstract reasoning and its results in matters of spirituality, is almost entirely in abeyance.

5. In Plotinus and Proclus.

In the third and last period of Greek Philosophy, we can pass by the Stoic and Epicurean, and also the Sceptical schools. For, great as was their practical importance and influence, these schools never aimed at embracing the totality of life; no one of them ever, as a matter of fact, cultivated more than one side of a purely individual self-education and peace-seeking. They reproduced and continued, on a larger scale, those interesting three minor Socratic schools which themselves had, even during the full times and universal systems of Plato and Aristotle, constituted as it were the backwaters away from the main stream of Greek speculation. The Stoic system carries on the Cynic school; the Epicurean, the Cyrenaic; and the Sceptical, the Megaric. Unity and Rest is monopolized by the Stoic, and Multiplicity and Movement by the Epicurean; whilst the Sceptic attempts to stand apart from and above both. What Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, living in still many-sided and public-spirited times, had, in their lives and teaching, seen and practised together; now, in a period of spiritual poverty and self-seeking, is seen and practised by separate schools separately, each in external conflict with the other.

Only the system of that great mystical soul, Plotinus, has, for our present purposes, a claim on our close attention. Indeed this, the last great attempt at synthesis of the ancient Greek mind, will have to occupy us in such detail throughout a great part of this book, that here we can but briefly indicate its chief characteristics as regards the One and the Many.

It is then clear that Plotinus is an even more intensely and exclusively religious spirit than is Plato himself. Some of his descriptions of the soul’s flight from the world of sense and of the soul’s substantial touch of God in ecstasy, and again his penetrating apprehension of the timeless and spaceless characteristics of Spirit, have never ceased, at least indirectly, to leaven, and to lend much of their form to, the deepest[24] recollective aspirations of religious souls in Europe and Western Asia, for some fourteen centuries at least.

Yet this religious sense is here so exclusive, and it thirsts so vehemently for perfect unity and for an infinite Superiority and utter Self-sufficingness of God, that it readily allies itself with, and reinforces by a massive enthusiasm and asceticism, the abstractive trend which, so strong at all times in Greek philosophy, was at this period already, for other reasons, growing more intensely abstractive than ever. Under this double influence Plotinus reduces the two great, deliberate, alternating movements of the soul,—its Outgoing to the Particular and Contingent, and its Incoming to the General and Infinite, as they are taught by Plato,—to one only, that of Recollection and Abstraction, a movement ever up and away, from all Multiplicity, to the One alone. And he denies to this One all Multiplicity whatsoever,—hence all such conscious, volitional action upon the world as is involved in Plato’s magnificent, though never worked out, intuition that it is love, (some energizing analogous to our thinking, loving and willing the existence, the self-realization and the happiness of other self-conscious beings,) which moves the Good, as it were, to go out from Itself, and to communicate Itself to others. Here, in Plotinus’s scheme, Man begins indeed with sense-impressions and imaginative picturings, with discursive reasoning and intuitive reason, with feelings, volitions, and energizings of every kind. But the more he moves up, the more of all this he leaves utterly behind; till, in ecstasy, all will, love, thought, consciousness, cease altogether. For man has thus been getting nearer and nearer, and more and more like, the One; and this One is just nothing besides sheer, pure Oneness,—it is neither Will, nor Love, nor Thought, nor Self-consciousness, in any degree or sense of these words.

Plotinus’s scheme is thus indeed prompted by some of the deepest Mystical aspirations. But whilst in its one deliberate movement—that of man up to God—it starts from convictions and requirements that are deeply ethical, libertarian, spiritual, theistic: it will be shown, in its conception of the nature of the One and of this One’s relations down into the world, to be curiously naturalistic and determinist, and subtly materialistic. Thus does Greek Philosophy end in an impressively all-devouring Abstraction, in an intense Realism destructive, step by step, of precisely all that concrete, individual,[25] personal Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, of all the spiritual, hence organic, interior, self-conscious reality, which had given occasion to this system. We have now but so many hypostatized abstractions, each more pale and empty than the other, each ever more simply a mere category of the human mind, indeed, but a category appropriate to Things and to Mathematico-Physical Laws, not to Spirit and to Ethico-Personal Organisms. The system, in its ultimate upshot and trend, is thus profoundly anti-Immanental, anti-Incarnational: a succession of increasingly exalted and increasingly empty Transcendences, each of which is, as it were, open upwards but closed downwards, takes the place of all deliberate operations and self-expressions of the Higher in and through the Lower, hence of all preveniences and condescensions of God.

And in Proclus, practically the last non-Christian Greek Philosopher, all these intensely abstractive, naturalistic features get finally and fully systematized, whilst but intermittent traces remain of Plato’s richly manifold, organized activities and his at times strikingly incarnational conceptions; and only skeleton-schemes persist of those rapt recollective experiences of Plotinus which, derived in his case from direct experience, constitute him, among all Philosophers, as Dr. Edward Caird most aptly calls him, the “Mystic par excellence.”

II. The Second of the Three Forces: Christianity, the Revelation of Personality and Depth.

Now the whole of this clear, conceptual, abstractive Greek method, in as far as it identified abstractions with realities, and names with things, and reasoning with doing, suffering, and experience; and sought for Unity outside of Multiplicity, for Rest outside of Energizing, for the Highest outside of Personality and Character as these are developed and manifested in the permeation and elevation of the lower; has in so far been succeeded and superseded by two other great world-moving experiences of the human race, experiences apparently even more antagonistic to each other than either appears to be to the Greek view: Christianity and Scientific Method.

1. The unique fulness and closeness of unity in multiplicity of our Lord’s life.

As to Christianity, it is really impossible to compare it[26] directly with Hellenism, without at once under-stating its originality. For its originality consists not so much in its single doctrines, or even in its teaching as a whole, and in the particular place each doctrine occupies in this teaching, as in its revelation, through the person and example of its Founder, of the altogether unsuspected depth and inexhaustibleness of human Personality, and of this Personality’s source and analogue in God, of the simplicity and yet difficulty and never-endingness of the access of man to God, and of the ever-preceding condescension of God to man. Hence if Christianity is thus throughout the Revelation of Personality; and if Personality is ever a One in Many, (and more deeply One and more richly Many, in proportion to the greatness of that spiritual reality): then we need not wonder at the difficulty we find in pointing out any one particular doctrine as constitutive of the unique originality of Christianity.

For a Person came, and lived and loved, and did and taught, and died and rose again, and lives on by His Power and His Spirit for ever within us and amongst us, so unspeakably rich and yet so simple, so sublime and yet so homely, so divinely above us precisely in being so divinely near,—that His character and teaching require, for an ever fuller yet never complete understanding, the varying study, and different experiments and applications, embodiments and unrollings of all the races and civilizations, of all the individual and corporate, the simultaneous and successive experiences of the human race to the end of time. If there is nothing shifting or fitful or simply changing about Him, there is everywhere energy and expansion, thought and emotion, effort and experience, joy and sorrow, loneliness and conflict, interior trial and triumph, exterior defeat and supplantation: particular affections, particular humiliations, homely labour, a homely heroism, greatness throughout in littleness. And in Him, for the first and last time, we find an insight so unique, a Personality so strong and supreme, as to teach us, once for all, the true attitude towards suffering.

Not one of the philosophers or systems before Him had effectually escaped falling either into Pessimism, seeing the end of life as trouble and weariness, and seeking to escape from it into some aloofness or some Nirvana; or into Optimism, ignoring or explaining away that suffering and trial which, as our first experience and as our last, surround us on every side. But[27] with Him, and alone with Him and those who still learn and live from and by Him, there is the union of the clearest, keenest sense of all the mysterious depth and breadth and length and height of human sadness, suffering, and sin, and, in spite of this and through this and at the end of this, a note of conquest and of triumphant joy.

And here, as elsewhere in Christianity, this is achieved not by some artificial, facile juxtaposition: but the soul is allowed to sob itself out; and all this its pain gets fully faced and willed, gets taken up into the conscious life. Suffering thus becomes the highest form of action, a divinely potent means of satisfaction, recovery, and enlargement for the soul,—the soul with its mysteriously great consciousness of pettiness and sin, and its immense capacity for joy in self-donation.

And again, His moral and spiritual idealism, whilst indefinitely higher than that of any of the philosophers or prophets before Him, has nothing strained or restless, nothing rootless or quietistic, nothing querulous or disdainful, or of caste or sect about it: the humblest manual labour, the simplest of the human relations, the universal elemental faculties of man as man, are all entered into and developed, are all hallowed in smallest detail, and step by step.

And finally His teaching, His life, are all positive, all constructive, and come into conflict only with worldly indifference and bad faith. No teacher before Him or since, but requires, if we would not be led astray by him, that we should make some allowances, in his character and doctrine, for certain inevitable reactions, and consequent narrownesses and contrarinesses. Especially is this true of religious teachers and reformers, and generally in exact proportion to the intensity of their fervour. But in Him there is no reaction, no negation, no fierceness, of a kind to deflect His teaching from its immanent, self-consistent trend. His very Apostles can ask Him to call down fire from heaven upon the unbelieving Samaritans; they can use the sword against one of those come out to apprehend Him; and they can attempt to keep the little ones from Him. But He rebukes them; He orders Peter to put back the sword in its scabbard; and He bids the little ones to come unto Him, since of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed St. Mark’s Gospel tells us how the disciples begged Him to forbid a man who did not follow them from casting out devils in His name; and how He[28] refused to do so, and laid down the great universal rule of all-embracing generosity: “He that is not against us, is with us.”[7]

2. This rich unity of life occasions three special presentations of it, the “Petrine,” “Pauline,” “Joannine.”

Now it is this very reality and depth, and hence the rich Unity, the growth, variety, and manifold fruitfulness of His life and teaching, which explain, as a necessity and an advantage, that we should have those successive pictures and conceptions of Him which already the New Testament presents. Because Socrates was so great and impressive, we have the two successive, remarkably divergent, portraits of him: the external, historical, by Xenophon; the internal, typical one, by Plato; and that is all. Because our Lord is so unspeakably greater, and continues, with inexhaustible freshness, to be the very life of the lives of Christians, we have three or four classical portraits of Him in the New Testament; and, in a certain true manner and degree, each successive age, in a measure each single soul, forms, and has to form, its own picture of Him.

We can roughly classify these pictures under the three successive types of the “Petrine,” the “Pauline,” and the “Joannine,” provided we do not forget that the precise limits of the first of these divisions are difficult to draw, and that there are growths and diversities of aspect to be found within the Pauline type. For the Petrine type will here be sought in the Synoptic Gospels, and in particular in those accounts and sayings there which appear to give us the closest reproduction of our Lord’s very acts and words and of the impressions produced by these upon the original witnesses. The Pauline type will embrace four main stages or developments: that of the four or five of the earlier Epistles—the two to the Thessalonians and those to the Galatians, Corinthians, and Romans; that of the Epistles of the Captivity, Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians; that of the Pastoral Epistles; and that of the Epistle to the Hebrews. And even in the least diversified, the Joannine type, there is the variation between the Gospel and Epistles on the one hand, and the Apocalypse on the other.

But taking these three types as each a unity, we shall hardly be guilty of an empty schematization, if the Petrine or Primitive-Apostolic group represents to us mainly the[29] simplest statement of the external facts, and specially of the traditional, the Jewish side of our Lord’s teaching; and if the Pauline and Joannine groups each mainly represent to us, in various degrees and combinations, the two manners in which the hidden significance of these facts, as intended for all men and for all time, can be penetrated, viz. by thought and speculation, and by feeling and operative experience.

Of course none of the three groups is without a large element common to it and to the other two: it is the same facts that are looked at and loved, by means of the same powers of the soul, and within the same great common principles and convictions. Only the precise antecedents, point of view, temper of mind; the selection, presentation, and degree of elaboration of the facts and of their spiritual meaning; the preponderance of this or that mental activity; the reasons and connections sought and seen, are often widely different in each, and produce a distinctiveness of impression which can be taken to correspond roughly to the three main powers of the soul: to the range of sense-perception and of memory; to that of reasoning; and to that of intuition, feeling, and will. If each group had only that element which can be taken as being its predominant one, then any single group would be of little value, and each group would imperatively require ever to be taken in conjunction with the other two. But, as a matter of fact, neither are the “Petrine” writings free from all reasoning and mystical affinities; nor are the “Pauline,” free from the historic, positive spirit, or, still less, from the mystical habit; nor the “Joannine” free from the deepest teaching as to the necessity of external facts, or from some argument and appeals to reason. Hence each group, indeed each writing even singly, and still more all three groups if taken together, profoundly embody and proclaim, by the rich variety of their contents and spirit, the great principle and measure of all life and truth: unity in and through variety, and steadfastness in and through growth.

Specially easy is it to find in all three types the two chief among the three modalities of all advanced religion: the careful reverence for the external facts of nature (so far as these are known), and for social religious tradition and institutions; and the vivid consciousness of the necessity and reality of internal experience and actuation, as the[30] single spirit’s search, response, and assimilation of the former.[8]

3. The “Petrine” attestations: their special message.

Thus the “Petrine” group gives us, as evidence for the observation and love of the external world: “Behold the birds of the air, how they sow not, neither harvest nor gather into barns”; “Study the lilies of the field how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these”; “The seed sprouts and shoots up, whilst the man knows not; the earth beareth fruit of itself, first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear”; “When now the fig-tree’s shoot grows tender and putteth forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh”; and, “When it is evening, you say: ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning: ‘It will be foul weather to-day, for the heaven is red and lowering.’”[9]

And as to reverence for tradition we get: “Think not that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets; I have come not to destroy but to fulfil.” And this respect extends to existing religious practices: “Beware,” He says, “lest you do your justice before men, to be seen by them,” but then describes the spirit in which they are to practice their “sedaka,” this “justice” which they are to do, with its three quite traditional divisions of alms-deeds, prayer, fasting, the three Eminent Good Works of Judaism. And again: “If thou offer thy gift upon the altar,” the doing so is in nowise criticised.[10]

Indeed there is no shrinking from the manifestation, on the part of the crowd, of new and even rude forms of trust in the visible and external: “A woman who had been suffering from an issue of blood during twelve years, … coming in the crowd behind Him, touched His garment, for she said: ‘If I but touch His garments I shall be saved.’ And straightway the issue of blood was dried up”; and the crowds generally “put the sick in the open places, and begged Him that they might but touch the hem of His garment; and such as touched it were healed”; and this “hem” consisted doubtless in the blue[31] tassels, the Zizith, worn by every religious Jew at the four corners of his cloak.[11]

And the twelve Apostles, whom He sends out with special instructions, “going forth preached that men should repent, and went casting out many devils, and anointing many sick with oil and healing them.” Indeed there is, as the act preliminary to His public ministry, His baptism in the Jordan; and there is, as introductory to His Passion, the supremely solemn, visible, and audible act which crowns the Last Supper.[12]

But this same group of documents testifies also to a mystical, interior element in Our Lord’s temper and teaching. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God,” are Beatitudes which cannot be far from the ipsissima verba of Our Lord. “In that hour Jesus answering said: ‘I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: yea, Father, for this hath been well-pleasing before Thee.’ … ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find refreshment for your souls: for My yoke is sweet and My burden is light.’” is deeply mystical passage doubtless expresses with a vivid exactitude the unique spiritual impression and renovation produced by Him within the souls of the first generations of His disciples. And the three Synoptists give us five times over the great fundamental mystical paradox: “If a man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whosoever shall be determined to save his soul, shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his soul for My sake, shall find it.” And the great law of interiority is recorded in St. Mark: “Listen unto Me, ye all, and understand: nothing that entereth from without into a man can defile him, but only the things that proceed from a man are the things that defile a man.”[13]

And we get in Mark the fundamental interior virtue of childlikeness, and the immanence of Christ in the childlike[32] soul: “If anyone wish to be first, let him be the last of all men and all men’s servant.” “And taking a little child He placed it in the midst of them; and having embraced it, He said unto them: ‘Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter therein.’” “Suffer little children to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”[14]

And the spirituality of the soul’s life in heaven, and the eternal Now of God, as the Living and Vivifying Present, are given in all three Synoptists: “In the Resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”[15]

4. The “Pauline” group of writings: its special teaching.

The Pauline group furnishes by far the greater amount of the explicit reasoning to be found in the New Testament; where, e.g., does the New Testament furnish a parallel to the long and intricate argument of chapters Third to Eleventh of the Epistle to the Romans, with its constant “therefores” and “buts” and “nows”? Yet this same group of writings also emphasizes strongly, though more rarely, the external-fact side of religion, and is deeply penetrated by the intuitive-emotional, the mystical spirit of Christianity.

The external, historical side is represented by the careful description and chronological arrangement observable in the account of six successive apparitions of the Risen Christ; and by the reference back to the acts and words used in the Eucharistic act at the Last Supper.[16]

Yet throughout the writings of St. Paul and of his school, it is the mystical, interior, experimental element that permeates the argumentative-speculative and the historical constituents. The chief manifestations of this mystical spirit and conviction, which really penetrates and knits together the whole of the Pauline teaching, can perhaps best be taken in a logical order.

First then it is St. Paul who, himself or through writers more or less dependent on him, gives us by far the most definite and detailed presentation of by far the most extraordinary experiences and events to be found in the New Testament[33] outside of the Gospels themselves. For the author of the Acts of the Apostles gives us the lengthy description of the Pentecostal Visitation, and, three times over, that most vivid account of Our Lord’s apparition to Saul on the way to Damascus. And St. Paul himself describes for us, at the closest first hand, the ecstatic states of the Christian communities in their earliest charismatic stage; he treats the apparition on the way to Damascus as truly objective and as on a complete par with the earlier apparitions accorded to the chosen Apostles in the first days after the Resurrection; and he gives us the solemn reference to his own experience of rapture to the third Heaven.[17] We should, however, note, in the next place, as the vital complement, indeed as the necessary pre-requisite, to this conviction and to the effectiveness of these facts,—facts conceived and recorded as external, as temporal and local,—St. Paul’s profound belief that all external evidences, whether of human reasoning and philosophy or of visible miracle, fail to carry conviction without the presence of certain corresponding moral and spiritual dispositions in those to whom they are addressed. “The word of the Cross,” the very same preaching, “is to those that are perishing foolishness, but to us that are being saved the power of God.” And the external, taken alone, can so little convince, that even the seeking after the external, without requisite dispositions, will but get us further away from its hidden function and meaning. “The Jews ask for signs (miracles), and the Greeks seek wisdom (philosophy); but we preach Christ crucified, who is to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles foolishness; but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” And the cause of this difference of interpretation is shown to lie in the various interior dispositions of the hearers: “The animal man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned; but the spiritual man discerneth all things.”[18]

And yet this mystery of religion has to be externally offered, to be preached to us, and is preached to all men; it[34] is intended by God to be known by all, and hence it is He who stimulates men to external preaching and external hearing, as to one of the pre-requisites of its acceptance: “The mystery which was hidden from the ages has now been made manifest”; he desires the Colossians to be strengthened in “the knowledge of the mystery of God and Christ”; and has to “speak the mystery of the Christ,” to “make it manifest.”[19]

And since this preaching, to be effective, absolutely requires, as we have seen, interior dispositions and interior illumination of the hearers, and since these things are different in different men, the degrees of initiation into this identical mystery are to be carefully adapted to the interior state of those addressed. “We preach wisdom amongst the perfect τέλειοι,” the technical term in the heathen Greek Mysteries for those who had received the higher grades of initiation. “I was not able to speak unto you as unto spiritual men, but (only) as unto fleshly ones, as unto infants in Christ. I have fed you with milk, not strong food, for you were not yet able.”[20]

And since all good, hence also the external preaching, comes from God, still more must this all-important interior apprehension of it come from Him. In a certain real sense the Spirit is thus organ as well as object of this interior light. “God has revealed unto us the wisdom of God through the Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, unless the spirit of man that is in him? even so no man knoweth the things of God, except the Spirit of God.”[21]

But further, the mystery revealed in a unique degree and form in Christ’s life, is really a universal spiritual-human law; the law of suffering and sacrifice, as the one way to joy and possession, which has existed, though veiled till now, since the foundation of the world. “The mystery of Christ, which in former generations was not made manifest unto the sons of men, but has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the spirit.” And this law, which is Christ’s life, must reappear in the life of each one of us. “We have been buried together with Him through Baptism unto death, in order that, as Christ rose again from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in the newness of life”;[35] “We know that our old man has been crucified together with Him. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall live with Him”; “If the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, He who raised Jesus from the dead will quicken your mortal bodies through His Spirit dwelling within you.”[22]

Christ’s life can be thus the very law of all life, because “He is the first-born of all creation, for in Him all things were created in heaven and on earth,” “all things were created through Him”; “and He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together”; “all things are summed up in Christ”; “Christ is all in all.” So that in the past, before His visible coming, the Jews in the desert “drank from the spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ.” And as He Himself is the perfect image of God, so all things are, in varying degrees, created in the image of Christ: “(Christ) who is the image of the living God”; “all things were created unto Him.” And since man is, in his original and potential essence, in a very special sense “the image and glory of God,” his perfecting will consist in a painful reconquest and development of this obscured and but potential essence, by becoming, as far as may be, another Christ, and living through the successive stages of Christ’s earthly life. We are bidden “all attain unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,” so that, in the end, we may be able to say with the Apostle himself: “I live no more in myself, but Christ lives in me”; a consummation which appears so possible to St. Paul’s mind, that he eagerly, painfully longs for it: “My children, with whom I am again in travail, until Christ be formed in you.” And indeed “we all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit.”[23]

We have then in St. Paul not only a deeply mystical element, but mysticism of the noblest, indeed the most daringly speculative, world-embracing type.

5. The “Joannine” group: its characteristic truths.

And finally the Joannine group furnishes us with an instance, as strong as is conceivable within the wide pale of a healthy Christian spirit, of the predominance of an interior and intuitive, mystical, universalistic, spiritual and symbolic[36] apprehension and interpretation both of external fact and of explicit reasoning.

The Visible and Historical is indeed emphasized, with a full consciousness of the contrasting Gnostic error, in the culminating sentence of the solemn Prologue of the Gospel, “And the Word was made Flesh and tabernacled amongst us, and we saw His glory,” and in the equally emphatic opening sentence of the First Epistle: “That which was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have beholden, and our hands have handled, … we announce unto you.” Hence too the Historical, Temporal Last Judgment, with its corporal resurrection, remains as certainly retained in this Gospel as in St. Matthew: “The hour cometh in which all those that are in the monuments shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, but those that have worked evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.”[24]

And Reasoning of a peculiarly continuous, rhythmically recurrent pattern, is as present and influential everywhere, as it is difficult to describe or even to trace. For it is here but the instrument and reflex of certain Mystical conceptions and doctrines, of a tendency to see, in everything particular and temporal, the Universal and Eternal; to apprehend Unity, a changeless Here and Now, in all multiplicity and succession, and hence to suppress explicit reasoning and clear distinctions, movement, growth, and change, as much as may be, both in the method of presentation and in the facts presented. If the Synoptists give us the successive, and write, unconsciously but specially, under the category of Time: the Fourth Gospel consciously presents us with simultaneity, and works specially under the category of Space.

The Successive is here conceived as but the appearance of the Simultaneous, of the Eternal and Abiding. Hence the historical development in the earthly experiences, teachings, and successes of Christ is ignored: His Godhead, that which is, stands revealed from the first in the appearances of His earthly life. Hence too the various souls of other men are presented to us as far as possible under one eternal and changeless aspect; they are types of various abiding virtues and iniquities, rather than concrete, composite mortals.


God appears here specially as Light, as Love, and as Spirit. Yet these largely thing-like attributions co-exist with personal qualities, and with real, ethical relations between God and the world: “God so loved the world, as that He gave His only begotten Son, in order that anyone who believeth in Him may not perish, but may have everlasting life.” The Father “draws” men, and “sends” His Son into the world.[25]

And this Son has eternally pre-existed with the Father; is the very instrument and principle of the world’s creation; and “is the true Light that enlightened every man that cometh into the world.” And this Word which, from the first, was already the Light of all men, became Flesh specially to manifest fully this its Life and Light. Indeed He is the only Light, and Way, and Truth, and Life; the only Door; the Living Bread; the true Vine.[26]

This Revelation and Salvation is indeed assimilated by individual souls and is received by them at a given moment, by a birth both new and from above, and is followed by a new knowledge. But this knowledge is not absolute nor unprogressive. Everywhere the Evangelist has indeed the verb γιγνώσκω, but nowhere the noun Gnosis; and the full meaning of the Revelation of the Father by the Son is to be only gradually revealed by the Holy Spirit. And this special new knowledge is not the cause but the effect of an ethical act on the part of the human soul,—an act of full trust in the persons of God and of His Christ, and in the intimations of the moral conscience as reflections of the divine will and nature. “If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be from God, or whether I speak from myself”; “He who doeth the truth, cometh to the light.”[27]

And this trust, and the experimental knowledge which flows from it, lead to an interior conviction so strong as to make us practically independent of external evidences. Hence in the First Epistle, this “we know” is repeatedly emphasized: “We know, that, if He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him”; “You know, that He was made manifest, that He might take away sins.” And this knowledge is communicated by the Spirit of God to man’s soul; the spirit bearing witness, there within, to the truth of Christ’s words, communicated from[38] without. “The Spirit it is that beareth witness, for the Spirit is the Truth.”[28]

External signs (miracles), and a certain un-ethical assent given to them and their implications, these things are, even at their best, but preliminary, and, of themselves, insufficient. Hence Our Lord can find “many who believed in His name, seeing His signs (miracles) which He did”; and yet could “not trust Himself to them.” Nicodemus indeed can come to Our Lord, moved by the argument that “thou hast come a teacher from God, for no man can do the signs (miracles) that thou doest, unless God be with him.” But then Our Lord’s whole conversation with him renders clear how imperfect and ignorant Nicodemus is so far,—he had come by night, his soul was still in darkness. So also “many Samaritans believed in Him, because of His sign,”—His miraculous knowledge of her past history, shown to the Woman at the Well; but more of them believed because of His own words to them: “We ourselves have (now) heard, and we know that this man is of a truth the Saviour of the world.” Hence He can Himself bid the Apostles, in intimation of their full and final privilege and duty, “believe in Me” (that is, My words and the Spirit testifying within you to their Truth), “that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me”; and, only secondarily and failing that fulness, “but if not, then believe, because of the very works.” And the whole Joannine doctrine as to the object and method of Faith is dramatically presented and summed up in the great culminating scene and saying of the Fourth Gospel: “Thomas” (the Apostle who would see a visible sign first, and would then build his Faith upon that sight) “saith to Him: ‘My Lord and my God.’ Jesus saith to him: ‘Because thou hast seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.’”[29]

And this Faith and Knowledge arising thus, in its fulness, at most only on occasion, and never because, of spacial and temporal signs, are conceived as a timeless, Eternal Life, and as one which is already, here and now, an actual present possession. “He who believeth in the Son, hath eternal life”; “He who heareth and believeth My word, hath eternal life”; “We know that we have passed from death unto life”;[39] “We know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”[30] There is then a profound immanence of Christ in the believing soul, and of such a soul in Christ; and this mutual immanence bears some likeness to the Immanence of the Father in Christ, and of Christ in the Father. “In that day” (when “the Father shall give you the Spirit of Truth”) “ye shall know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you.”[31]

III. Science: the Apprehension and Conception Of Brute Fact and Iron Law.

But now, athwart both the Hellenic and the Christian factors of our lives, the first apparently so clear and complete and beautiful, the latter, if largely dark and fragmentary, so deep and operative, comes and cuts a third and last factor, that of Science, apparently more peremptory and irresistible than either of its predecessors.[32] For both the former factors would appear to melt into mid-air before this last one. They evidently cannot ignore it; it apparently can ignore them. If Metaphysics and Religion seem involved in a perpetual round of interminable questions, solved, at most and at best, for but this man and for that, and with an evidence for their truth which can be and is gainsaid by many, but cannot be demonstrated with a peremptory clearness to any one: Science, on the other hand, would appear to give us just this terra firma of an easy, immediate, undeniable, continually growing, patently fruitful body of evidence and of fact.

And not only can Metaphysics and Religion not ignore Science, in the sense of denying or even overlooking its existence; they cannot apparently, either of them, even begin or proceed or end without constant reference, here frank and open, there tacit but none the less potent, to the enterprises, the methods, the conclusions of the Sciences one and all, and this even in view of establishing their own contentions. And more and more of the territory formerly assigned to Metaphysics or Religion seems in process of being conquered by Science: in Metaphysics, by experimental psychology, and by[40] the simple history of the various philosophical systems, ideas, and technical terms, and of the local and temporal, racial and cultural antecedents and environments which gave rise to them; in Religion, by an analogous observation and study of man in the past and present, of man studied from within and from without.

1. Three characteristics of this scientific spirit.

Now this scientific spirit has hitherto, since its birth at the Renaissance, ever tended to the ever-increasing development of three main characteristics, which are indeed but several aspects of one single aim and end. There was and is, for one thing, the passion for Clearness, which finds its expression in the application of Mathematics and of the Quantitative view and standard to all and every subject-matter, in so far as the latter is conceived as being truly knowable at all. There was and is, for another, the great concept of Law, of an iron Necessity running through and expressing itself in all things, one great Determinism, before which all emotion and volition, all concepts of Spontaneity and Liberty, of Personality and Spirit, either Human or Divine, melt away, as so many petty subjective wilfulnesses of selfish, childish, “provincial” man, bent on fantastically humanizing this great, cold thing, the Universe, into something responsive to his own profoundly unimportant and objectively uninteresting sensations and demands. There was and is, for a third thing, a vigorous Monism, both in the means and in the end of this view. Our sources of information are but one,—the reasoning, reckoning Intellect, backed up by readily repeatable, directly verifiable Experiment. The resultant information is but one,—the Universe within and without, a strict unbroken Mechanism.

If we look at the most characteristically modern elements of Descartes, and, above all, of Spinoza, we cannot fail to find throughout, as the reaction of this Scientific spirit upon Philosophy, the passion for those three things: for Clearness and ready Transferableness of ideas; for one universal, undeniable Common Element and Measure for all knowledge of every degree and kind; and for Law, omnipresent and inexorable. That is, we have here a passion for Thing as over against, as above, Person; for the elimination of all wilfulness, even at the cost of will itself, of all indetermination, obscurity and chance, even at the cost of starving and drying up whole regions of our complex nature, whole sources of information,[41] and of violently simplifying and impoverishing the outlook on to reality both within us and without.

2. Fundamental motive of entire quest, deeply legitimate, indeed religious: Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant.

And yet how unjust would he be who failed to recognize, in the case of Spinoza especially, the noble, and at bottom deeply religious, motives and aspirations underlying such excesses; or the new problems and necessities, the permanent growth and gain, which this long process of human thought has brought to Religion itself, especially in indirect and unintentional ways!

For as to the motives, it ought not to be difficult to any one who knows human history and human nature, to see how the all but complete estrangement from Nature and Physical Fact which, from Socrates onwards, with the but very partial exception of Aristotle, had, for well-nigh two thousand years, preceded this reaction; how the treatment of Matter and the Visible as more or less synonymous with Non-Being and Irrationality, as a veil or even a wall, as a mere accident or even a positive snare, lying everywhere between us and Reality, could not fail to require and produce a swing of the pendulum in the opposite direction. And the feeling and the perception of how superficial and unreal, how oppressively confined, how intolerably fixed and ultimate, how arrogant and cold and fruitless, such persistent neglect of the Data of Sense had somehow, at last, rendered philosophy, gave now polemical edge to men’s zealous study and discovery of this world. This study was perceived, even by the shallower thinkers, to be fair and rational and fruitful in itself; and it was found, by some few deep spirits, to be a strangely potent means of purifying, enlarging, “deprovincializing” man himself. The severe discipline of a rigorous study of man’s lowly, physical conditions and environment, things hitherto so despised by him, was now at last to purify him of his own childish immediacy of claim. The pettily selfish, shouting Individual was to pass through the broad, still, purgatorial waters of a temporary submergence under the conceptions, as vivid as though they were direct experiences, of ruthless Law, of Mechanism, of the Thing; so as to pass out, purified and enlarged, a Person, expressive of the Universal and Objective, of Order and of Law.

It is especially in Spinoza that this deeper, universally human and ethical, indeed we can say religious, implication[42] and ideal of the rigorously scientific spirit is present in all its noble intuition and aspiration, and that at the same time, alas, this deep truth is forced into a ruinously inappropriate method and formulation. For the original end of the entire quest, an end which is still emotionally dominant and which furnishes the hidden dialectic of the whole,—Man, his nobility and interior purification and beatitude,—has here, intellectually, become but a means; Man, in the real logic of this system, is, hopelessly and finally, but a wheel in the huge mechanism of that natura naturata which Spinoza’s own richness and nobility of character transcends with potent inconsistency. And this very system, which is so nobly human and Christian in its ethical tone and in its demand of a Conversion of the whole man, in its requiring man to lose and sacrifice his petty self that he may gain his true self and become a genuine constituent of the Universe and Thought of God, is also the very one which, by its ruthless Naturalism and Determinism of Doctrine and its universally Mathematical and Quantitative form and method, logically eliminates all such qualitative differentiation and conversion as impossible and futile.

The prima facie view of life as it presents itself to the clarifying, Scientific Intellect, namely the omnipresence of the determinist mechanism, has never been more impressively felt and pictured than by Spinoza; the dispositions and happiness of the purified, disinterested soul have rarely been experienced and described with more touching elevation and power. But there is no real transition, indeed no possibility of such, in his system, from that first aspect to this latter state; for that first aspect, that apparent determinism, is for his logic not merely apparent or secondary, but the very truth of truths, the very core and end of things.

And this bondage of mind to matter, this enslavement of the master to the servant, this narrow, doctrinaire intellectualism and determinism, is more hidden than cured in Leibniz, who, if he brings the immense improvement because enrichment of a keen sense and love of the Historical, loses, on the other hand, Spinoza’s grandly Conversional tone and temper. A cheerful, easy, eminently sane but quite inadequate bustle of manifold interests; a ready, pleasant optimism; an endless laboriousness of the reasoning faculty; all this, even though carried out on a scale unique since the days of Aristotle, is necessarily unequal to face and bear[43] “the burthen of all this unintelligible world.”

And yet here, in him who may not unfitly be called the last of the Dogmatic Rationalists and Optimists, we have already those great perceptions which were destined more and more to burst the bonds of this cold, clear, complete, confining outlook. For one thing, as already stated, there is, alongside the love of the Material and Mathematical, an almost equal love of the Historical and Human. There is, for another thing, the deep consciousness of the Individuality and Interiority of all real existences,—all that is at all, has an inside to it. And, finally, in further enforcement of this latter doctrine, there is the fruitful conception of Subconscious States of feeling and of mind in all living things.

Yet it is only in Kant that,—with all his obscurities and numberless demonstrable inconsistencies, with all his saddening impoverishment of the outlook in many ways,—we get, little conscious as he himself is of such a service, the deep modern explanation of the ancient pre-scientific neglect and suspicion of natural research. Here we are led to see that the strictly Scientific view of Nature is necessarily quantitative, but that the strictly Ethical, Spiritual view of man is as necessarily qualitative; that the analysis of all natural phenomena but leads to judgments as to what is, whereas the requirements of human action lead to judgments of what ought to be. Here the weak point lies in the contrast, established by him and pushed to the degree of mutual exclusion, between Reason and Will. For the contrast which we find in actual life is really between the deeper reason, ever closely accompanied by deep emotion, this reason and emotion occasioning, and strengthened by, the action of the whole man,—and all this is not directly transferable; and the more superficial reasoning, having with it little or no emotion,—the action of but one human faculty,—and this action is readily transferable.

3. Place and function of such science in the totality of man’s life.

The mistake in the past would thus lie, not in the doctrine that the Visible cannot suffice for man and is not his mind’s true home; nor in the implication that the Visible cannot directly and of itself reveal to him the Spiritual world. The error would lie entirely in the double implication or doctrine, that there is really nothing to be known about Nature, or that what can be known of it can be attained by Metaphysical or Mystical methods; and again that strictly quantitative, severe[44] scientific method and investigation can, even in the long run, be safely neglected by the human soul, as far as its own spiritual health is concerned.

We take it then that mankind has, after endless testings and experiences, reached the following conclusions. We encounter everywhere, both within us and without, both in the physical and mental world, in the first instance, a whole network of phenomena; and these phenomena are everywhere found to fall under certain laws, and to be penetrable by certain methods of research, these laws and methods varying indeed in character and definiteness according to the subject-matter to which they apply, but in each case affording to man simply indefinite scope for discovery without, and for self-discipline within.

And all this preliminary work and knowledge does not directly require religion nor does it directly lead to it; indeed we shall spoil both the knowledge itself, and its effect upon our souls and upon religion, if religion is here directly introduced. The phenomena of Astronomy and Geology, of Botany and Zoology, of human Physiology and Psychology, of Philology and History are and ought to be, in the first instance, the same for all men, whether the said men do or do not eventually give them a raison d’être and formal rational interest by discovering the metaphysical and religious convictions and conclusions which underlie and alone give true unity to them and furnish a living link between the mind observing and the things observed. Various as are these phenomena, according to the department of human knowledge to which they severally belong, yet they each and all have to be, in the first instance, discovered and treated according to principles and methods immanent and special to that department.

And the more rigorously this is accomplished, both by carrying out these principles and methods to their fullest extent, and by conscientiously respecting their limits of applicability and their precise degree of truth and of range in the larger scheme of human activity and conviction, the more will such science achieve three deeply ethical, spiritually helpful results.

Such science will help to discipline, humble, purify the natural eagerness and wilfulness, the cruder forms of anthropomorphism, of the human mind and heart. This turning to the visible will thus largely take the place of that former turning away from it; for only since the Visible has been[45] taken to represent laws, and, provisionally at least, rigorously mechanical laws characteristic of itself, can it be thus looked upon as a means of spiritual purification.

Such science again will help to stimulate those other, deeper activities of human nature, which have made possible, and have all along preceded and accompanied, these more superficial ones; and this, although such science will doubtless tend to do the very opposite, if the whole nature be allowed to become exclusively engrossed in this one phenomenal direction. Still it remains true that perhaps never has man turned to the living God more happily and humbly, than when coming straight away from such rigorous, disinterested phenomenal analysis, as long as such analysis is felt to be both other than, and preliminary and secondary to, the deepest depths of the soul’s life and of all ultimate Reality.

And finally, such science will correspondingly help to give depth and mystery, drama and pathos, a rich spirituality, to the whole experience and conception of the soul and of life, of the world and of God. Instead of a more or less abstract picture, where all is much on the same plane, where all is either fixed and frozen, or all is in a state of feverish flux, we get an outlook, with foreground, middle distances, and background, each contrasting with, each partially obscuring, partially revealing, the other; but each doing so, with any freshness and fulness, only in and through the strongly willing, the fully active and gladly suffering, the praying, aspiring, and energizing spiritual Personality, which thus both gives and gets its own true self ever more entirely and more deeply.

4. Science to be taken, throughout our life, in a double sense and way.

In such a conception of the place of Science, we have permanently to take Science, throughout life, in a double sense and way. In the first instance, Science is self-sufficing, its own end and its own law. In the second instance, which alone is ever final, Science is but a part of a whole, but a function, a necessary yet preliminary function, of the whole of man; and it is but part, a necessary yet preliminary part, of his outlook. Crush out, or in any way mutilate or deautonomize, this part, and all the rest will suffer. Sacrifice the rest to this part, either by starvation or attempted suppression, or by an impatient assimilation of this immense remainder to that smaller and more superficial part, and the whole man suffers again, and much more seriously.


And the danger, in both directions,—let us have the frankness to admit the fact,—is constant and profound: even to see it continuously is difficult; to guard against it with effect, most difficult indeed. For to starve or to suspect, to cramp or to crush this phenomenal apprehension and investigation, in the supposed interest of the ulterior truths, must ever be a besetting temptation and weakness for the religious instinct, wherever this instinct is strong and fixed, and has not yet itself been put in the way of purification.

For Religion is ever, qua religion, authoritative and absolute. What constitutes religion is not simply to hold a view and to try and live a life, with respect to the Unseen and the Deity, as possibly or even certainly beautiful or true or good: but precisely that which is over and above this,—the holding this view and this life to proceed somehow from God Himself, so as to bind my innermost mind and conscience to unhesitating assent. Not simply that I think it, but that, in addition, I feel bound to think it, transforms a thought about God into a religious act.

Now this at once brings with it a double and most difficult problem. For Religion thus becomes, by its very genius and in exact proportion to its reality, something so entirely sui generis, so claimful and supreme, that it at once exacts a two-fold submission, the one simultaneous, the other successive; the first as it were in space, the second in time. The first regards the relations of religion to things non-religious. It might be parodied by saying: “Since religion is true and supreme, religion is all we require: all things else must be bent or broken to her sway.” She has at the very least the right to a primacy not of honour only, but of direct jurisdiction, over and within all activities and things. The second regards the form and concept of religion itself. Since religion always appears both in a particular form at a particular time and place, and as divine and hence authoritative and eternal; and since the very strength and passion of religion depend upon the vigorous presence and close union of these two elements: religion will ever tend either really to oppose all change within itself, or else to explain away its existence. Religion would thus appear doomed to be either vague and inoperative, or obscurantist and insincere.

And it is equally clear that the other parts of man’s nature and of his outlook cannot simply accept such a claim, nor could religion itself flourish at all if they could and did accept[47] it. They cannot accept the claim of religion to be immediately and simply all, for they are fully aware of being themselves something also. They cannot accept her claim to dictate to them their own domestic laws, for they are fully aware that they each, to live truly at all, require their own laws and their own, at least relative, autonomy. However much man may be supremely and finally a religious animal, he is not only that; but he is a physical and sexual, a fighting and artistic, a domestic and social, a political and philosophical animal as well.

Nor can man, even simply qua religious man, consent to a simple finality in the experience and explication, in the apprehension and application of religion, either in looking back into the past; or in believing and loving, suffering and acting in the present; or in forecasting the future, either of the race or of himself alone. For the here and now, the concrete “immediacy,” the unique individuality of the religious experience for me, in this room, on this very day, its freshness, is as true and necessary a quality of living religion as any other whatsoever. And if all life sustains itself only by constant, costing renovation and adaptation of itself to its environment, the religious life, as the most intense and extensive of all lives, must somehow be richest in such newness in oldness, such renovative, adaptive, assimilative power.

5. All this seen at work in man’s actual history.

Now it is deeply instructive to observe all this at work historically. For here we find every variety of attitude towards this very point. There are men of Religion who attempt to do without Science, and men of Science who attempt to do without Religion. Or again, men of Religion attempt to level up,—to assimilate the principles and results of the various sciences directly to religion, or at least to rule those scientific principles and results directly by religion. Or men of Science attempt to level down, to make religion into a mere philosophy or even a natural history. Yet we find also,—with so persistent a recurrence in all manner of places and times, as itself to suggest the inherent, essential, indestructible truth of the view,—another, a far more costing attitude. This attitude refuses all mutilation either of normal human nature or of its outlook, all oppression of one part by the other; for it discovers that these various levels of life have been actually practised in conjunction by many an individual in the past and in the present; and that, where they have[48] been practised within a large organization of faith and love, they have ever led to a fuller reality and helpfulness both of the science and of the religion concerned. Hence the mind thus informed cannot doubt the truth of this solution, however difficult at all times may be its practice, and however little final at any time can be its detailed intellectual analysis.

IV. Summing up: Hellenism or Harmonization, Christianity or Spiritual Experience, and Science or Acceptance of a Preliminary Mechanism, all three necessary to Man.

To sum up all this first chapter, we have got so far as this. We have seen that humanity has, so far, found and worked out three forces and conceptions of life, forces which are still variously operative in each of us, but which find their harmonious interaction in but few men, their full theoretical systematization in none.[33]

There is the ancient, Greek contribution, chiefly intellectual and aesthetic, mostly cold and clear, quick and conclusive, with, upon the whole, but a slight apprehension of personality and freedom, of conscience and of sin, and little or no sense of the difference and antagonism between these realities and simply Mathematical, Mechanical laws and concepts. It is a view profoundly abstract, and, at bottom, determinist: the will follows the intellect necessarily, in exact proportion to the clearness of information of the former. And the strength of this view, which was possible even to that gifted race just because of the restrictedness of its knowledge concerning the length and breadth of nature and of history, and still more with regard to the depths of the human character and conscience, consists in its freshness, completeness, and unity. And this ideal of an ultimate harmonization of our entire life and of its theory we must never lose, more and more difficult though its even approximate realization has of necessity become.

There is next the middle, Christian contribution, directly moral and religious, deep and dim and tender, slow and far-reaching, immensely costly, infinitely strong; with its discovery and exemplification of the mysterious depth and range and complexity of human personality and freedom, of[49] conscience and of sin; a view profoundly concrete and at bottom libertarian. The goodwill here first precedes, and then outstrips, and determines the information supplied by the intellect: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” And the strength of this position consists in its being primarily not a view, but a life, a spiritual, religious life, requiring, implying, indeed proclaiming, definite doctrines concerning God and man, and their relations to each other, but never exhausted by these doctrines even in their collectivity, inexhaustible though these in their turn are by their union with the life of the spirit, their origin and end.

There is finally the modern, Scientific contribution, intensely impersonal and determinist, directly neither metaphysical nor religious, but more abstract even than the Greek view, in the mathematical constituent of its method, and more concrete in a sense than Christianity itself, in the other, the sensible-experiment constituent of its method. The most undeniable of abstractions, those of mathematics, (undeniable just because of their enunciation of nothing but certain simplest relations between objects, supposing those objects to exist,) are here applied to the most undeniable of concretions, the direct experiences of the senses. And this mysterious union which, on the surface, is so utterly heterogeneous, is itself at all explicable only on mental, metaphysical assumptions and on the admission of the reality and priority of Mind. It is a union that has turned out as unassailable in its own province, as it is incapable of suppressing or replacing the wider and deeper truths and lives discovered for us respectively by Hellenism and Christianity.

Only in the case that man could but reckon mathematically and observe with his senses, or in the case that man were indeed provided with other faculties, but that he found Reality outside him and within him to be properly apprehensible by the mathematico-experimental process alone, could there be any serious question of such a final suppression of by far the greater and deeper portion of himself. Instead of any such deadlock the facts of these last four centuries bear out the contention that neither can the religious life suppress or do without the philosophical and the scientific, nor can either of these other two lives suppress or permanently do without its fellow or without religion.

But all this and its detailed practical application will, I trust, become much clearer as we proceed.




We have found then that all life and all truth are, for all their unity, deeply complex, for us men at all events; indeed that they are both in exact proportion to their reality. In this, our second chapter, I should like to show the complexity special to the deepest kind of life, to Religion; and to attempt some description of the working harmonization of this complexity. If Religion turned out to be simple, in the sense of being a monotone, a mere oneness, a whole without parts, it could not be true; and yet if Religion be left too much a mere multiplicity, a mere congeries of parts without a whole, it cannot be persuasive and fully operative. And the several constituents are there, whether we harbour, recognize, and discipline them or not; but these constituents will but hinder or supplant each other, in proportion as they are not somehow each recognized in their proper place and rank, and are not each allowed and required to supplement and to stimulate the other. And though no amount of talk or theory can, otherwise than harmfully, take the place of life, yet observation and reflection can help us to see where and how life acts: what are the causes, or at least the concomitants, of its inhibition and of its stimulation and propagation, and can thus supply us with aids to action, which action will then, in its turn, help to give experimental fulness and precision to what otherwise remains a more or less vague and empty scheme.

I. The Three Elements, as they successively appear in the Child, the Youth, and the Adult Man.

Now if we will but look back upon our own religious life, we shall find that, in degrees and in part in an order of succession varying indefinitely with each individual, three modalities,[51] three modes of apprehension and forms of appeal and of outlook, have been and are at work within us and around.[34]

1. Sense and Memory, the Child’s means of apprehending Religion.

In the doubtless overwhelming majority of cases, there came first, as far as we can reconstruct the history of our consciousness, the appeal to our infant senses of some external religious symbol or place, some picture or statue, some cross or book, some movement of some attendant’s hands and eyes. And this appeal would generally have been externally interpreted to us by some particular men or women, a Mother, Nurse, Father, Teacher, Cleric, who themselves would generally have belonged to some more or less well-defined traditional, institutional religion. And their appeal would be through my senses to my imaginative faculty first, and then to my memory of that first appeal, and would represent the principle of authority in its simplest form.

All here as yet works quasi-automatically. The little child gets these impressions long before itself can choose between, or even is distinctly conscious of them; it believes whatever it sees and is told, equally, as so much fact, as something to build on. If you will, it believes these things to be true, but not in the sense of contrasting them with error; the very possibility of the latter has not yet come into sight. And at this stage the External, Authoritative, Historical, Traditional, Institutional side and function of Religion are everywhere evident. Cases like that of John Stuart Mill, of being left outside of all religious tradition, we may safely say, will ever remain exceptions to help prove the rule. The five senses then, perhaps that of touch first, and certainly that of sight most; the picturing and associative powers of the imagination; and the retentiveness of the memory, are the side of human nature specially called forth. And the external, sensible, readily picturable facts and the picturing functions of religion correspond to and feed this side, as readily as does the mother’s milk correspond to and feed that same mother’s infant. Religion is here, above all, a Fact and Thing.

2. Question and Argument, the Youth’s mode of approaching Religion.

But soon there wakes up another activity and requirement[52] of human nature, and another side of religion comes forth to meet it. Direct experience, for one thing, brings home to the child that these sense-informations are not always trustworthy, or identical in its own case and in that of others. And, again, the very impressiveness of this external religion stimulates indeed the sense of awe and of wonder, but it awakens curiosity as well. The time of trustful questioning, but still of questioning, first others, then oneself, has come. The old impressions get now more and more consciously sought out, and selected from among other conflicting ones; the facts seem to clamour for reasons to back them, against the other hostile facts and appearances, or at least against those men in books, if not in life, who dare to question or reject them. Affirmation is beginning to be consciously exclusive of its contrary: I begin to feel that I hold this, and that you hold that; and that I cannot do both; and that I do the former, and exclude and refuse the latter.

Here it is the reasoning, argumentative, abstractive side of human nature that begins to come into play. Facts have now in my mind to be related, to be bound to other facts, and men to men; the facts themselves begin to stand for ideas or to have the latter in them or behind them. The measuring-rod seems to be over all things. And religion answers this demand by clear and systematic arguments and concatenations: this and this is now connected with that and that; this is true or this need not be false, because of that and that. Religion here becomes Thought, System, a Philosophy.

3. Intuition, Feeling, and Volitional requirements and evidences, the Mature Man’s special approaches to Faith.

But yet a final activity of human nature has to come to its fullest, and to meet its response in a third side of Religion. For if in Physiology and Psychology all action whatsoever is found to begin with a sense-impression, to move through the central process of reflection, and to end in the final discharge of will and of action, the same final stage can be found in the religious life. Certain interior experiences, certain deep-seated spiritual pleasures and pains, weaknesses and powers, helps and hindrances, are increasingly known and felt in and through interior and exterior action, and interior suffering, effort, and growth. For man is necessarily a creature of action, even more than of sensation and of reflection; and in this action of part of himself against other parts, of himself[53] with or against other men, with or against this or that external fact or condition, he grows and gradually comes to his real self, and gains certain experiences as to the existence and nature and growth of this his own deeper personality.

Man’s emotional and volitional, his ethical and spiritual powers, are now in ever fuller motion, and they are met and fed by the third side of religion, the Experimental and Mystical. Here religion is rather felt than seen or reasoned about, is loved and lived rather than analyzed, is action and power, rather than either external fact or intellectual verification.

II. Each Element ever accompanied by some amount of the other two. Difficulty of the Transitions from one stage to the other.

Now these three sides of the human character, and corresponding three elements of Religion, are never, any one of them, without a trace or rudiment of the other two; and this joint presence of three such disparate elements ever involves tension, of a fruitful or dangerous kind.[35]

1. Utility of this joint presence.

In the living human being indeed there never exists a mere apprehension of something external and sensible, without any interior elaboration, any interpretation by the head and heart. We can hardly allow, we can certainly in nowise picture to ourselves, even an infant of a few hours old, as working, and being worked upon, by nothing beyond these sense-perceptions alone. Already some mental, abstractive, emotional-volitional reaction and interpretation is presumably at work; and not many weeks or months pass before this is quite obviously the case. And although, on the other hand, the impressions of the senses, of the imagination and the memory are, normally, more numerous, fresh, and lasting in early than in later years, yet up to the end they continue to take in some new impressions, and keep up their most necessary functions of supplying materials, stimulants, and tests to the other powers of the soul.


Thus, too, Religion is at all times more or less both traditional and individual; both external and internal; both institutional, rational, and volitional. It always answers more or less to the needs of authority and society; of reason and proof; of interior sustenance and purification. I believe because I am told, because it is true, because it answers to my deepest interior experiences and needs. And, everything else being equal, my faith will be at its richest and deepest and strongest, in so far as all these three motives are most fully and characteristically operative within me, at one and the same time, and towards one and the same ultimate result and end.

2. The two crises of the soul, when it adds Speculation to Institutionalism, and Mysticism to both.

Now all this is no fancy scheme, no petty or pretty artificial arrangement: the danger and yet necessity of the presence of these three forces, the conflicts and crises within and between them all, in each human soul, and between various men and races that typify or espouse one or the other force to the more or less complete exclusion of the other, help to form the deepest history, the truest tragedy or triumph of the secret life of every one of us.

The transition from the child’s religion, so simply naïve and unselfconscious, so tied to time and place and particular persons and things, so predominantly traditional and historical, institutional and external, to the right and normal type of a young man’s religion, is as necessary as it is perilous. The transition is necessary. For all the rest of him is growing,—body and soul are growing in clamorous complexity in every direction: how then can the deepest part of his nature, his religion, not require to grow and develop also? And how can it permeate and purify all the rest, how can it remain and increasingly become “the secret source of all his seeing,” of his productiveness and courage and unification, unless it continually equals and exceeds all other interests within the living man, by its own persistent vitality, its rich and infinite variety, its subtle, ever-fresh attraction and inexhaustible resourcefulness and power? But the crisis is perilous. For he will be greatly tempted either to cling exclusively to his existing, all but simply institutional, external position, and to fight or elude all approaches to its reasoned, intellectual apprehension and systematization; and in this case his religion will tend to contract and shrivel up, and to become[55] a something simply alongside of other things in his life. Or he will feel strongly pressed to let the individually intellectual simply supplant the institutional, in which case his religion will grow hard and shallow, and will tend to disappear altogether. In the former case he will, at best, assimilate his religion to external law and order, to Economics and Politics; in the latter case he will, at best, assimilate it to Science and Philosophy. In the first case, he will tend to superstition; in the second, to rationalism and indifference.

But even if he passes well through this first crisis, and has thus achieved the collaboration of these two religious forces, the external and the intellectual, his religion will still be incomplete and semi-operative, because still not reaching to what is deepest and nearest to his will. A final transition, the addition of the third force, that of the emotional-experimental life, must yet be safely achieved. And this again is perilous: for the two other forces will, even if single, still more if combined, tend to resist this third force’s full share of influence to the uttermost. To the external force this emotional power will tend to appear as akin to revolution; to the intellectual side it will readily seem mere subjectivity and sentimentality ever verging on delusion. And the emotional-experimental force will, in its turn, be tempted to sweep aside both the external, as so much oppressive ballast; and the intellectual, as so much hair-splitting or rationalism. And if it succeeds, a shifting subjectivity, and all but incurable tyranny of mood and fancy, will result,—fanaticism is in full sight.

III. Parallels to this Triad of Religious Elements.

If we would find, applied to other matters, the actual operation and co-operation, at the earliest stage of man’s life, of the identical powers under discussion, we can find them, by a careful analysis of our means and processes of knowledge, or of the stages of all reflex action.

1. The three constituents of Knowledge.

Even the most elementary acquisition, indeed the very possibility, of any and all certitude and knowledge, is dependent for us upon the due collaboration of the three elements[56] or forces of our nature, the sensational, the rational, the ethico-mystical.[36]

There is, first, in the order of our consciousness and in the degree of its undeniableness, the element of our actual impressions, the flux of our consciousness as it apprehends particular sights and sounds, smells and tastes and touches; particular sensations of rest and movement, pleasure and pain, memory, judgment, and volition, a flux, “changeless in its ceaseless change.” We have so far found neither a true object for thought, nor a subject which can think. And yet this element, and this alone, is the simply, passively received, the absolutely undeniable part of our experience,—we cannot deny it if we would. And again, it is the absolutely necessary pre-requisite for our exercise or acquisition, indeed for our very consciousness, of the other two means or elements, without which there can be no real knowledge.

For there is, next in the logical order of the analysis of our consciousness and in the degree of its undeniableness, the element of the various forms of necessary thought, in as much as these are experienced by us as necessary. We can, with Aristotle, simply call them the ten categories; or we can, with greater precision and extension, group them, so far with Kant, under the two main heads of the two pure “aesthetic” Perceptions of time and space, on the one hand; and of the various “analytic” Forms of judgment and of the Categories of Unity, Reality, Substance, Possibility, etc., on the other hand. Now it can be shown that it is only by means of this whole second element, only through the co-operation of these “perceptions” and forms of thought, that any kind even of dim feeling of ordered succession or of system, of unity or meaning, is found by our mind in that first element. Only these two elements, found and taken together, present us, in their interaction, with even the impression and possibility of something to reason about, and something wherewith to reason.

The second element then differs from the first in this, that whereas the first presents its contents simply as actual and undeniable, yet without so far any necessity or significance: the second presents its contents as both actual and necessary.[57] By means of the first element I see a red rose, but without any feeling of more than the fact that a rose, or at least this one, is red; it might quite as well be yellow or blue. By means of the second element, I think of a body of any kind, not only as actually occupying some particular space and time, but as necessarily doing so; I feel that I must so think of it.

And yet there is a third and last element necessary to give real value to the two previous ones. For only on the condition that I am willing to trust these intimations of necessity, to believe that these necessities of my subjective thought are objective as well, and correspond to the necessities of Being, can I reach the trans-subjective, can I have any real knowledge and experience of anything whatsoever, either within me or without. The most elementary experience, the humblest something to be granted as really existing and as to be reasoned from, is thus invariably and inevitably composed for me of three elements, of which only the first two are directly experienced by me at all. And the third element, the ethico-mystical, has to be there, I have to trust and endorse the intimations of necessity furnished by the second element, if anything is to come of the whole movement.

Thus, here also, at the very source of all our certainty, of the worth attributable to the least or greatest of our thoughts and feelings and acts, we already find the three elements: indubitable sensation, clear thought, warm faith in and through action. And thus life here already consists of multiplicity in unity; and what in it is absolutely indubitable, is of value only because it constitutes the indispensable starting-point and stimulation for the apprehension and affirmation of realities not directly experienced, not absolutely undeniable, but which alone bear with them all the meaning, all the richness, all the reality and worth of life.

2. The three links in the chain of Reflex Action.

We can also find this same triad, perhaps more simply, if we look to Psychology, and that most assured and most far-reaching of all its results, the fact and analysis of Reflex Action. For we find here that all the activities of specifically human life begin with a sense-impression, as the first, the one simply given element; that they move into and through a central process of mental abstraction and reflection, as the second element, contributed by the mind itself; and that they end, as the third element, in the discharge of will[58] and of action, in an act of free affirmation, expansion, and love.

In this endless chain composed of these groups of three links each, the first link and the last link are obscure and mysterious: the first, as coming from without us, and as still below our own thought; the third, as going out from us, and seen by us only in its external results, never in its actual operation, nor in its effect upon our own central selves. Only the middle link is clear to us. And yet the most mysterious part of the whole process, the effect of it all upon the central self, is also the most certain and the most important result of the whole movement, a movement which ever culminates in a modification of the personality and which prepares this personality for the next round of sense-perception, intellectual abstraction, ethical affirmation and volitional self-determination,—acts in which light and love, fixed and free, hard and cold and warm, are so mysteriously, so universally, and yet so variously linked.

IV. Distribution of the Three Elements amongst Mankind and throughout Human History.

Let us now watch and see where and how the three elements of Religion appear among the periods of man’s life, the human professions, and the races of mankind; then how they succeed each other in history generally; and finally how they exist among the chief types and phases of the Oriental, Classical Graeco-Roman, and Judaeo-Christian religions.

1. The Elements: their distribution among man’s various ages, sexes, professions, and races.

We have already noticed how children incline to the memory-side, to the external, social type; and it is well they should do so, and they should be wisely helped therein. Those passing through the storm-and-stress period insist more upon the reason, the internal, intellectual type; and mature souls lay stress upon the feelings and the will, the internal, ethical type. So again, women generally tend either to an excess of the external, to superstition; or of the emotional, to fanaticism. Men, on the contrary, appear generally to incline to an excess of the intellectual, to rationalism and indifference.

Professions, too, both by the temperaments which they presuppose, and the habits of mind which they foster, have[59] various affinities. The fighting, administrative, legal and political sciences and services, readily incline to the external and institutional; the medical, mathematical, natural science studies, to the internal-intellectual; the poetical, artistic, humanitarian activities, to the internal-emotional.

And whole races have tended and will tend, upon the whole, to one or other of these three excesses: e.g. the Latin races, to Externalism and Superstition; the Teutonic races, to the two Interiorisms, Rationalism and Fanaticism.

2. Co-existence and succession of the Three Elements in history generally.

The human race at large has evidently been passing, upon the whole, from the exterior to the interior, but with a constant tendency to drop one function for another, instead of supplementing, stimulating, purifying each by means of the other two.

If we go back as far as any analyzable records will carry us, we find that, in proportion as religion emerges from pure fetichism, it has ever combined with the apprehension of a Power conceived, at last and at best, as of a Father in heaven, that of a Bond with its brethren upon earth. Never has the sacrifice, the so-to-speak vertical relation between the individual man and God, between the worshipper and the object of his worship, been without the sacrificial meal, the communion, the so-to-speak lateral, horizontal relations between man and his fellow-man, between the worshippers one and all. Never has religion been purely and entirely individual; always has it been, as truly and necessarily, social and institutional, traditional and historical. And this traditional element, not all the religious genius in the world can ever escape or replace: it was there, surrounding and moulding the very pre-natal existence of each one of us; it will be there, long after we have left the scene. We live and die its wise servants and stewards, or its blind slaves, or in futile, impoverishing revolt against it: we never, for good or for evil, really get beyond its reach.

And yet all this stream and environment of the traditional and social could make no impression upon me whatsoever unless it were met by certain secret sympathies, by certain imperious wants and energies within myself. If the contribution of tradition is quantitatively by far the most important, and might be compared to the contribution furnished by the Vocabulary to the constitution of a definite, particular[60] language,—the contribution of the individual is, qualitatively and for that individual, more important still, and might be compared to the contribution of the Grammar to the constitution of that same language: for it is the Grammar which, though incomparably less in amount than the Vocabulary, yet definitely constitutes any and every language.

And there is here no necessary conflict with the claim of Tradition. It is true that all real, actual Religion is ever an act of submission to some fact or truth conceived as not only true but as obligatory, as coming from God, and hence as beyond and above our purely subjective fancies, opinings, and wishes. But it is also true that, if I could not mentally hear or see, I should be incapable of hearing or seeing anything of this kind or of any other; and that without some already existing interior affinity with and mysterious capacity for discriminating between such intimations—as either corresponding to or as traversing my existing imperious needs and instincts—I could not apprehend the former as coming from God. Without, then, such non-fanciful, non-wilful, subjective capacities and dispositions, there is for us not even the apprehension of the existence of such objective realities: such capacities and dispositions are as necessary pre-requisites to every act of faith, as sight is the absolute pre-requisite for my discrimination between black and white. Hence as far back as we can go, the traditional and social, the institutional side of religion was accompanied, in varying, and at first small or less perceptible degrees and forms, by intellectual and experimental interpretation and response.

3. The Three Elements in the great Religions.

Even the Greek religion, so largely naturalistic up to the very end, appears, in the centuries of its relative interiorization, as a triad composed of a most ancient traditional cultus, a philosophy of religion, and an experimental-ethical life; the latter element being readily exemplified by the Demon of Socrates, and by the Eleusinian and Orphic Mysteries.

In India and Tibet, again, Brahmanism and Buddhism may be said to have divided these three elements between them, the former representing as great an excess of the external as Buddhism does of abstruse reasoning and pessimistic emotion. Mahometanism, while combining, in very imperfect proportions, all three elements within itself, lays special stress upon the first, the external element; and though harbouring, for centuries now and more or less everywhere,[61] the third, the mystical element, looks, in its strictly orthodox representatives, with suspicion upon this mysticism.

Judaism was slow in developing the second, the intellectual element; and the third, the mystical, is all but wholly absent till the Exilic period, and does not become a marked feature till still later on, and in writers under Hellenistic influence. It is in the Book of Wisdom, still more in Philo, that we find all three sides almost equally developed. And from the Hasmonean period onwards till the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, we find a severe and ardent external, traditional, authoritative school in the Pharisees; an accommodating and rationalizing school in the Sadducees; and, apart from both, more a sect than a school, the experimental, ascetical, and mystical body of the Essenes.

But it is in Christianity, and throughout its various vicissitudes and schools, that we can most fully observe the presence, characteristics, and interaction of these three modalities. We have already seen how the New Testament writings can be grouped, with little or no violence, according to the predominance of one of these three moods, under the heads of the traditional, historic, external, the “Petrine” school; the reasoning, speculative-internal, the Pauline; and the experimental, mystical-internal, the Joannine school. And in the East, up to Clement of Alexandria, in the West up to St. Augustine, we find the prevalence of the first type. And next, in the East, in Clement and Origen, in St. Gregory of Nyssa, in the Alexandrian and the Antiochene school generally, and in the West, in St. Augustine, we find predominantly a combination of the second and third types. The Areopagitic writings of the end of the fifth century still further emphasize and systematize this Neo-Platonic form of mystical speculation, and become indeed the great treasure-house from which above all the Mystics, but also largely the Scholastics, throughout the Middle Ages, drew much of their literary material.

And those six or seven centuries of the Middle Ages are full of the contrasts and conflicts between varying forms of Institutionalism, Intellectualism, and Mysticism. Especially clearly marked is the parallelism, interaction, and apparent indestructibleness of the Scholastic and Mystical currents. Abelard and St. Bernard, St. Thomas of Aquin and the great Franciscan Doctors, above all the often largely latent, yet really ceaseless conflict between Realism and Nominalism, all[62] can be rightly taken as caused by various combinations and degrees, insufficiencies or abnormalities in the action of the three great powers of the human soul, and of the three corresponding root-forms and functions of religion. And whereas, during the prevalence of Realism, affective, mystical religion is the concomitant and double of intellectual religion; during the later prevalence of Nominalism, Mysticism becomes the ever-increasing supplement, and at last, ever more largely, the substitute, for the methods of reasoning. “Do penance and believe in the Gospel” becomes now the favourite text, even in the mouth of Gerson (who died in 1429), the great Nominalist Doctor, the Chancellor of the then greatest intellectual centre upon earth, the University of Paris. A constant depreciation of all dialectics, indeed largely of human knowledge generally, appears even more markedly in the pages of the gentle and otherwise moderate Thomas of Kempen (who died in 1471).

Although the Humanist Renaissance was not long in carrying away many minds and hearts from all deeper consciousness and effort of a moral and religious sort, yet in so far as men retained and but further deepened and enriched their religious outlook and life, the three old forms and modalities reappear, during the earlier stages of the movement, in fresh forms and combinations. Perhaps the most truly comprehensive and Christian representative of the new at its best, is Cardinal Nicolas of Coes, the precursor of modern philosophy. For he combines the fullest adhesion to, and life-long labour for, External Institutional authority, with the keenest Intellectual, Speculative life, and with the constant temper and practice of experimental and Mystical piety. And a similar combination we find in Blessed Sir Thomas More in England, who lays down his life in defence of Institutional Religion and of the authority of the visible Church and its earthly head; who is a devoted lover of the New Learning, both Critical and Philosophical; and who continuously cultivates the Interior Life. A little later on, we find the same combination in Cardinal Ximenes in Spain.

But it is under the stress and strain of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation movements that the depth and vitality of the three currents gets specially revealed. For in Germany, and in Continental Protestantism generally, we see (immediately after the very short first “fluid” stage of Luther’s and Zwingli’s attitude consequent upon their breach[63] with Rome) the three currents in a largely separate condition, and hence with startling distinctness. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, different as are their temperaments and both their earlier and their later Protestant attitudes and doctrines, all three soon fall back upon some form and fragmentary continuation, or even in its way intensification, of Institutional Religion,—driven to such conservatism by the iron necessity of real life and the irrepressible requirements of human nature. They thus formed that heavy untransparent thing, orthodox Continental Protestantism. Laelius and Faustus Socinus attempt the construction of a purely Rationalistic Religion, and capture and intensify the current of a clear, cold Deism, in which the critical mind is to be supreme. And the Anabaptist and other scattered sects and individuals (the latter represented at their best by Sebastian Frank) attempt, in their turn, to hold and develop a purely interior, experimental, emotional-intuitive, ecstatic Religion, which is warm, indeed feverish and impulsive, and distrusts both the visible and institutional, and the rational and critical.

In England the same phenomenon recurs in a modified form. For in Anglicanism, the most characteristic of its parties, the High Church school, represents predominantly the Historical, Institutional principle. The Latitudinarian school fights for the Rational, Critical, and Speculative element. The Evangelical school stands in close spiritual affinity to all but the Unitarian Nonconformists in England, and represents the Experimental, Mystical element. We readily think of Laud and Andrewes, Pusey and Keble as representatives of the first class; of Arnold, Stanley, and Jowett as figures of the second class; of Thomas Scott, John Newton, and Charles Simeon as types of the third class. The Tracts for the Times, Essays and Reviews, and (further back) Bunyan’s Works, would roughly correspond to them in literature.

And this trinity of tendency can also be traced in Catholicism. Whole Religious Orders and Congregations can be seen or felt to tend, upon the whole, to one or the other type. The Jesuits can be taken as predominantly making for the first type, for fact, authority, submission, obedience; the Dominicans for the second type, for thought, a philosophico-speculative, intellectual religion; the Benedictines, in their noble Congregation of St. Maur, for a historico-critical intellectual type; the French Oratory, for a combination of both the speculative (Malebranche) and the critical (Simon,[64] Thomassin); and the Franciscans, for the third, for action and experimental, affective spirituality.

And yet none of these Orders but has had its individuals, and even whole secondary periods, schools, and traditions, markedly typical of some current other than that specially characteristic of the Order as a whole. There are the great Critics and Historians of the Jesuit Order: the Spanish Maldonatus, the New Testament Scholar, admirable for his time, and helpful and unexhausted still; the French Denys Petau, the great historian of Christian Doctrine and of its development; the Flemish Bollandists, with their unbroken tradition of thorough critical method and incorruptible accuracy and impartiality. There are the great Jesuit Mystics: the Spanish Venerable Balthazar Alvarez, declared by St. Teresa to be the holiest mystical soul she had ever known; and the Frenchmen, Louis Lallemant and Jean Joseph Surin. There are those most attractive figures, combining the Scholar and the Mystic: Blessed Edmund Campion, the Oxford Scholar and Elizabethan Martyr; and Jean Nicolas Grou, the French translator of Plato, who died in exile in England in 1800. The Dominicans have, from the first, been really representative of external authority as well of the speculative rational bent; and the mystical side has never been wanting to them, so amongst the early German Dominicans, Tauler and Suso, and many a Dominican female Saint. The Benedictines from the first produced great rulers; such striking types of external authority as the Pope-Saints, Gregory the Great and Gregory VII (Hildebrand), and the great Benedictine Abbots and Bishops throughout the Middle Ages are rightly felt to represent one whole side of this great Order. And again such great mystical figures as St. Hildegard of Bingen and the two Saints Gertrude are fully at home in that hospitable Family. And the Franciscans have, in the Conventuals, developed representatives of the external authority type; and in such great philosopher-theologians as Duns Scotus and Occam, a combination which has more of the intellectual, both speculative and critical, than of the simply ascetical or even mystical type.

And if we look for individual contrasts, we can often find them in close temporal and local juxtaposition, as in France, in the time of Louis XIV, in the persons of Bossuet, Richard Simon, and Fénelon, so strikingly typical of the special strengths and limitations of the institutional, rational, experimental[65] types respectively. And yet the most largely varied influence will necessarily proceed from characters which combine not only two of the types, as in our times Frederick Faber combined the external and experimental; but which hold them all three, as with John Henry Newman in England or Antonio Rosmini in Italy.

V. Causes operative in all Religion towards Minimizing or Suppressing one or other Element, or towards denying the need of any Multiplicity.

Let us end this chapter with some consideration of the causes and reasons that are ever tending to produce and to excuse the quiet elimination or forcible suppression of one or other of the elements that constitute the full organism of religion, and even to minimize or to deny altogether the necessity of any such multiplicity.

1. The religious temper longs for simplification.

To take the last point first. How obvious and irresistible seems always, to the specifically religious temper, the appeal to boundless simplification. “Can there be anything more sublimely, utterly simple than religion?” we all say and feel. In these regions, if anywhere, we long and thirst to see and feel all things in one, to become ourselves one, to find the One Thing necessary, the One God, and to be one with Him for ever. Where is there room here, we feel even angrily, for all these distinctions, all this balancing of divers faculties and parts? Is not all this but so much Aestheticism, some kind of subtle Naturalism, a presumptuous attempting to build up bit by bit in practice, and to analyze part from part in theory, what can only come straight from God Himself, and, coming from Him the One, cannot but bear the impress of His own indistinguishable Unity? And can there be anything more unforcedly, unanalyzably simple than all actual religion,—and this in exact proportion to its greatness? Look at St. Francis of Assisi, or St. John Baptist; look above all at the Christ, supremely, uniquely great, just because of His sublime simplicity! Look at, feel, the presence and character of those countless souls that bear, unknown even to themselves, some portion of this His impress within themselves, forming thus a kind of indefinitely rich extension of His reign, of the kingdom of His childlikeness. Away then with everything that[66] at all threatens to break up a corresponding simplicity in ourselves! Poverty of spirit, emptiness of heart, a constant turning away from all distraction, from all multiplicity both of thought and of feeling, of action and of being; this, surely, is the one and only necessity for the soul, at least in proportion to the height of her spiritual call.

2. Yet every truly living Unity is constituted in Multiplicity.

Now in all this there is a most subtle mixture of truth and of error. It is profoundly true that all that is at all, still more all personality, and hence above all God, the Spirit of spirits is, just in that proportion, profoundly mysteriously One, with a Unity which all our best thinking can only distantly and analogously represent. And all religion will ever, in proportion as it is vigorous and pure, thirst after an ever-increasing Unification, will long to be one and to give itself to the One,—to follow naked the naked Jesus. Yet all the history of human thought and all the actual experience of each one of us prove that this Unity can be apprehended and developed, by and within our poor human selves, only in proportion as we carefully persist in stopping at the point where it can most thoroughly organize and harmonize the largest possible multiplicity of various facts and forces.

No doubt the living soul is not a whole made up of separate parts; still less is God made up of parts. Yet we cannot apprehend this Unity of God except in multiplicity of some sort; nor can we ourselves become rightly one, except through being in a true sense many, and very many, as well. Indeed the Christian Faith insists that there is something most real actually corresponding to this our conception of multiplicity even and especially in God Himself. For it as emphatically bids us think of Him as in one sense a Trinity as in another a Unity. And it is one of the oldest and most universal of Christian approaches to this mystery, to conceive it under the analogy of the three powers of the soul. God the Father and Creator is conceived as corresponding to the sense-perception and Imagination, to Memory-power; God the Son and Redeemer, as the Logos, to our reason; and God the Holy Spirit, as corresponding to the effective-volitional force within us; and then we are bidden to remember that, as in ourselves these three powers are all united in One personality, so in God the three Persons are united in One substance and nature. Even the supremely and ineffably simple Godhead is not, then, a mere, undifferentiated One.


And if we take the case of Our Lord, even when He is apprehended in the most abstract of orthodox ways: we get either the duality of natures, God and Man; or a trinity of offices, the Kingly, the Prophetic, and the Priestly,—these latter again corresponding roughly to the External, the Intellectual, and the Mystical element of the human soul. And even if we restrict ourselves to His Humanity, and as pictured in any one Gospel, nay in the earliest, simplest, and shortest, St. Mark, we shall still come continually upon a rich multiplicity, variety, and play of different exterior and interior apprehensions and activities, emotions and sufferings, all profoundly permeated by one great end and aim, yet each differing from the other, and contributing a different share to the one great result. The astonishment at the disciples’ slowness of comprehension, the flash of anger at Peter, the sad reproachfulness towards Judas, the love of the children, the sympathy with women, the pity towards the fallen, the indignation against the Pharisees, the rejoicing in the Father’s revelation, the agony in the Garden, the desolation on the Cross, are all different emotions. The perception of the beauty of the flowers of the field, of the habits of plants and of birds, of the varieties of the day’s early and late cloud and sunshine, of the effects of storm and rain; and again of the psychology of various classes of character, age, temperament, and avocation; and indeed of so much more, are all different observations. The lonely recollection in the desert, the nights spent in prayer upon the mountains, the preaching from boats and on the lake-side, the long foot-journeyings, the many flights, the reading and expounding in the Synagogues, the curing the sick and restoring them to their right mind, the driving the sellers from the Temple-court, and so much else, are all different activities.

And if we take what is or should be simplest in the spiritual life of the Christian, his intention and motive; and if we conceive this according to the evidence of the practice of such Saints as have themselves revealed to us the actual working of their souls, and of the long and most valuable series of controversies and ecclesiastical decisions in this delicate matter, we shall again find the greatest possible Multiplicity in the deepest possible Unity. For even in such a Saint as St. John of the Cross, whose own analysis and theory of the interior life would often seem all but directly and completely to exclude the element of multiplicity, it is necessary ever to interpret and supplement one part of his[68] teaching by another, and to understand the whole in the light of his actual, deliberate, habitual practice. This latter will necessarily ever exceed his explicit teaching, both in its completeness and in its authority. Now if in his formal teaching he never wearies of insisting upon detachment from all things, and upon the utmost simplification of the intentions of the soul, yet he occasionally fully states what is ever completing this doctrine in his own mind,—that this applies only to the means and not to the end, and to false and not to true multiplicity. “The spiritual man,” he writes in one place, “has greater joy and comfort in creatures, if he detaches himself from them; and he can have no joy in them, if he considers them as his own.” “He,” as distinct from the unspiritual man, “rejoices in their truth,” “in their best conditions,” “in their substantial worth.” He “has joy in all things.”[37] A real multiplicity then exists in things, and in our most purified apprehension of them; varied, rich joys related to this multiplicity are facts in the life of the Saints; and these varied joys may legitimately be dwelt on as incentives to holiness for oneself and others. “All that is wanting now,” he writes to Donna Juana de Pedraça, his penitent, “is that I should forget you. But consider how that is to be forgotten which is ever present to the soul.”[38] An affection then, as pure as it was particular, was ever in his heart, and fully accepted and willed and acknowledged to its immediate object, as entirely conformable to his own teaching. St. Teresa, on the other hand, is a character of much greater natural variety, and yet it is she who has left us that most instructive record of her temporary erroneous ideal of a false simplicity, in turning away, for a number of years, from the consideration of the Humanity of Christ. And a constant, keen interest in the actual larger happenings of her time, in the vicissitudes of the Church in her day, was stamped upon all her teaching, and remained with her up to the very end.

Perhaps the most classic expression of the true Unity is that implied by St. Ignatius of Loyola, when he tells us that “Peace is the simplicity of order.” For order as necessarily implies a multiplicity of things ordered as the unity of the supreme ordering principle. Fénelon, doubtless, at times, especially in parts of his condemned Explication des Maximes[69] des Saints, too much excludes, or seems to exclude, the element of multiplicity in the soul’s intention. Yet, both before and after this book, some of the clearest and completest statements in existence, as to the true unity and diversity to be found in the most perfect life, are to be found among his writings. In his Latin Epistle to Pope Clement XI he insists upon the irreducible element of multiplicity in the motives of the very highest sanctity.

For he maintains first that, though “in the specific act of Love, the chief of the theological virtues, it is possible to love the absolute perfection of God considered in Himself, without the addition of any motive of the promised beatitude,” yet that “this specific act of love, of its own nature, never excludes, and indeed most frequently includes, this same motive of beatitude.” He asserts next that though, “in the highest grade of perfection amongst souls here below, deliberate acts of simply natural love of ourselves, and even supernatural acts of hope which are not commanded by love mostly cease,” yet that in this “habitual State of any and every most perfect soul upon earth, the promised beatitude is desired, and there is no diminution of the exercise of the virtue of hope, indeed day by day there is an increase in this desire, from the specific motive of hope of this great good, which God Himself bids us all, without exception, to hope for.” And he declares finally that “there is no state of perfection in which souls enjoy an uninterrupted contemplation, or in which the powers of the soul are bound by an absolute incapacity for eliciting the discursive acts of Christian piety; nor is there a state in which they are exempted from following the laws of the Church, and executing all the orders of superiors.”[39]

All the variety, then, of the interested and of the disinterested; of hope and fear and sorrow; of gratitude and adoration and love; of the Intuitive and Discursive; of Recollection and external Action, is to be found, in a deeper, richer, more multiple and varied and at the same time a more unified unity, in the most perfect life; and all this in proportion to its approach to its own ideal and normality.

Indeed the same multiplicity in unity is finely traced by St. Bernard, the great contemplative, in every human act that partakes of grace at all.[70] “That which was begun by Grace, gets accomplished alike by both Grace and Free Will, so that they operate mixedly not separately, simultaneously not successively, in each and all of their processes. The acts are not in part Grace, in part Free Will; but the whole of each act is effected by both in an undivided operation.”[40]

VI. The Special Motives operating in each Element towards the Suppression of the other Elements.

Now the elements of Multiplicity and Friction and of Unity and Harmonization, absolutely essential to all life, everywhere and always cost us much to keep and gain. But there are also, very special reasons why the three great constituents of religion should, each in its own way, tend continually to tempt the soul to retain only it, and hence to an impoverishing simplification. Let us try and see this tendency at work in the two chief constituents, as against each other, and in combination against the third.

1. In the Historical and Institutional Element, as against all else.

We have seen how all religiousness is ever called into life by some already existing religion. And this religion will consist in the continuous commemoration of some great religious facts of the past. It will teach and represent some divine revelation as having been made, in and through such and such a particular person, in such and such a particular place, at such and such a particular time; and such a revelation will claim acceptance and submission as divine and redemptive in and through the very form and manner in which it was originally made. The very peculiarity, which will render the teaching distinctively religious, will hence be a certain real, or at least an at first apparent, externality to the mind and life of the recipient, and a sense of even painful obligation answered by a willing endorsement. All higher religion ever is thus personal and revelational; and all such personal and revelational religion was necessarily first manifested in unique conditions of space and time; and yet it claims, in as much as divine, to embrace all the endless conditions of other spaces and other times.

And this combination of a clearly contingent constituent[71] and of an imperiously absolute claim is not less, but more visible, as we rise in the scale of religions. The figure of Our Lord is far more clear and definite and richly individual than are the figures of the Buddha or of Mahomet. And at the same time Christianity has ever claimed for Him far more than Buddhism or Mahometanism have claimed for their respective, somewhat shadowy founders. For the Buddha was conceived as but one amongst a whole series of similar revealers that were to come; and Mahomet was but the final prophet of the one God. But Christ is offered to us as the unique Saviour, as the unique revelation of God Himself. You are thus to take Him or leave Him. To distinguish and interpret, analyze or theorize Him, to accept Him provisionally or on conditions,—nothing of all this is distinctively religious. For, here as everywhere else, the distinctive religious act is, as such, an unconditional surrender. Nowhere in life can we both give and keep at the same time; and least of all here, at life’s deepest sources.

With this acceptance then, in exact proportion as it is religious, a double exclusiveness will apparently be set up. I have here found my true life:—I will turn away then from all else, and will either directly fight, or will at least starve and stunt, all other competing interests and activities—I will have here a (so to speak) spacial, a simultaneous exclusiveness. Religion will thus be conceived as a thing amongst other things, or as a force struggling amongst other forces; we have given our undivided heart to it,—hence the other things must go, as so many actual supernumeraries and possible supplanters. Science and Literature, Art and Politics must all be starved or cramped. Religion can safely reign, apparently, in a desert alone.

But again, Religion will be conceived, at the same time, as a thing fixed in itself, as given once for all, and to be defended against all change and interpretation, against all novelty and discrimination. We get thus a second, a (so to speak) temporal, successive exclusiveness. Religion will here be conceived as a thing to be kept literally and materially identical with itself and hence as requiring to be defended against any kind of modification. Conceive it as a paste, and all yeast must be kept out; or as wine, and fermentation must be carefully excluded. And indeed Religion here would thus become a stone, even though a stone fallen from heaven, like one of those meteorites worshipped in Pagan antiquity. And the[72] two exclusivenesses, joined together, would give us a religion reduced to such a stone worshipped in a desert.

Now the point to notice here is, that all this seems not to be an abuse, but to spring from the very essence of religion,—from two of its specific inalienable characteristics—those of externality and authority. And although the extreme just described has never been completely realized in history, yet we can see various approximations to it in Mahometan Egypt, in Puritan Scotland, in Piagnone Florence, in Spain of the Inquisition. Religion would thus appear fated, by its very nature, to starve out all else, and its own self into the bargain.

What will be the answer to, the escape from, all this, provided by religion itself? The answer and escape will be provided by the intrinsic nature of the human soul, and of the religious appeal made to it. For if this appeal must be conceived by the soul, in exact proportion to the religiousness of both, as incomprehensible by it, as exceeding its present, and even its potential, powers of comprehension; if again this appeal must demand a sacrifice of various inclinations felt at the time to be wrong or inferior; if it must come home to the soul with a sense of constraining obligation, as an act of submission and of sacrifice which it ought and must make: yet it will as necessarily be conceived, at the same time, and again in exact proportion to the religiousness both of the soul and of the appeal, as the expression of Mind, of Spirit, and the impression of another mind and spirit; as the manifestation of an infinite Personality, responded and assented to by a personality, finite indeed yet capable of indefinite growth. And hence the fixity of the revelation and of the soul’s assent to it, will be as the fixity of a fountain-head, or as the fixity of river-banks; or again as the fixity of a plant’s growth, or of the gradual leavening of bread, or as that of the successive evolution and identity of the human body. The fixity, in a word, will be conceived and found to be a fixity of orientation, a definiteness of affinities and of assimilative capacity.

Only full trust, only unconditional surrender suffice for religion. But then religion excites and commands this in a person towards a Person; a surrender to be achieved not in some thing, but in some one,—a some one who is at all, only in as much as he is living, loving, growing; and to be performed, not towards some thing, but towards Some One, Whose right, indeed Whose very power to claim me, consists[73] precisely in that He is Himself absolutely, infinitely and actually, what I am but derivatively, finitely and potentially.

Thus the very same act and reasons which completely bind me, do so only to true growth and to indefinite expansion. I shall, it is true, ever go back and cling to the definite spacial and temporal manifestations of this infinite Spirit’s personality, but I shall, by this same act, proclaim His eternal presentness and inexhaustible self-interpreting illumination. By the same act by which I believe in the revelation of the workshop of Nazareth, of the Lake of Galilee, of Gethsemane and Calvary, I believe that this revelation is inexhaustible, and that its gradual analysis and theory, and above all its successive practical application, experimentation, acceptance or rejection, and unfolding, confer and call forth poignant dramatic freshness and inexhaustible uniqueness upon and within every human life, unto the end of time.

All this takes place through the present, the hic et nunc, co-operation of the living God and the living soul. And this ever-to-be reconquered, ever-costing and chequered, ever-“deepenable” interpretation, is as truly fresh as if it were a fresh revelation. For all that comes from the living God, and is worked out by living souls, is ever living and enlivening: there is no such thing as mere repetition, or differentiation by mere number, place, and time, in this Kingdom of Life, either as to God’s action or the soul’s. Infinite Spirit Himself, He creates an indefinite number of, at first largely but potential, persons, no one of which is identical with any other, and provokes and supports an indefinite number of ever different successive acts on the part of each and all of them, that so, through the sum-total of such sources and streams of difference, the nearest creaturely approach may be achieved to the ocean of His own infinite richness.

2. In the Emotional and Volitional Element, as against the Historical and Institutional Element.

Now the tendency of a soul, when once awake to this necessary freshness and interiority of feeling with regard to God’s and her own action, will again be towards an impoverishing oneness. It will now tend to shrink away from the External, Institutional altogether. For though it cannot but have experienced the fact that it was by contact with this External that, like unto Antaeus at his contact with Mother Earth, it gained its experience of the Internal, yet each such[74] experience tends to obliterate the traces of its own occasion. Indeed the interior feeling thus achieved tends, in the long run, to make the return to the contact with the fact that occasioned, and to the act that produced it, a matter of effort and repugnance. It seems a case of “a man’s returning to his mother’s womb”; and is indeed a new birth to a fuller life, and hence humiliating, obscure, concentrated, effortful, a matter of trust and labour and pain and faith and love,—a true death of and adieu to the self of this moment, however advanced this self may seem,—a fully willed purifying pang. Only through such dark and narrow Thermopylae passes can we issue on to the wide, sunlit plains. And both plain and sunshine can never last long at a time; and they will cease altogether, if they are not interrupted by this apparent shadow of the valley of death, this concrete action, which invariably modifies not only the soul’s environment, but above all the soul itself.

Thus does a simply mental prayer readily feel, to the soul that possesses the habit of it, a complete substitute for all vocal prayer; and a generally prayerful habit of mind readily appears an improvement upon all conscious acts of prayer. Thus does a general, indeterminate consciousness of Christ’s spirit and presence, easily feel larger and wider, to him who has it, than the apparent contraction of mind and heart involved in devotion to Him pictured in the definite Gospel scenes or localized in His Eucharistic presence. Thus again does a general disposition of regret for sin and of determination to do better readily feel nobler, to him who has it, than the apparent materiality and peddling casuistry, the attempting the impossible, of fixing for oneself the kind and degree of one’s actual sins, and of determining upon definite, detailed reforms.

Yet, in all these cases, this feeling will rapidly lead the soul on to become unconsciously weak or feverish, unless the latter manfully escapes from this feeling’s tyranny, and nobly bends under the yoke and cramps itself within the narrow limits of the life-giving concrete act. The Church’s insistence upon some vocal prayer, upon some definite, differentiated, specific acts of the various moral and theological virtues, upon Sacramental practice throughout all the states and stages of the Christian life, is but a living commentary upon the difficulty and importance of the point under discussion. And History, as we have seen, confirms all this.


3. In the Emotional and Volitional, singly or in combination with the Historical and Institutional, as against the Analytic and Speculative Element.

But just as the Institutional easily tends to a weakening both of the Intellectual and of the Emotional, so does the Emotional readily turn against not only the Institutional but against the Intellectual as well. This latter hostility will take two forms. Inasmuch as the feeling clings to historical facts and persons, it will instinctively elude or attempt to suppress all critical examination and analysis of these its supports. Inasmuch as it feeds upon its own emotion, which (as so much pure emotion) is, at any one of its stages, ever intensely one and intensely exclusive, it will instinctively fret under and oppose all that slow discrimination and mere approximation, that collection of a few certainties, many probabilities, and innumerable possibilities, all that pother over a very little, which seem to make up the sum of all human knowledge. Such Emotion will thus tend to be hostile to Historical Criticism, and to all the Critical, Analytic stages and forms of Philosophy. It turns away instinctively from the cold manifold of thinking; and it shrinks spontaneously from the hard opaque of action and of the external. All this will again be found to be borne out by history.

A combination of Institutionalism and Experimentalism against Intellectualism, is another not infrequent abuse, and one which is not hard to explain. For if external, definite facts and acts are found to lead to certain internal, deep, all-embracing emotions and experiences, the soul can to a certain extent live and thrive in and by a constant moving backwards and forwards between the Institution and the Emotion alone, and can thus constitute an ever-tightening bond and dialogue, increasingly exclusive of all else. For although the Institution will, taken in itself, retain for the Emotion a certain dryness and hardness, yet the Emotion can and often will associate with this Institution whatever that contact with it has been found to bring and to produce. And if the Institution feels hard and obscure, it is not, like the Thinking, cold and transparent. Just because the Institution appears to the emotional nature as though further from its feeling, and yet is experienced as a mysterious cause or occasion of this feeling, the emotional nature is fairly, often passionately, ready to welcome what it can thus rest on and lean on, as something having a comfortable fixity both of[76] relation and of resistance. But with regard to Thinking, all this is different. For thought is sufficiently near to Feeling, necessarily to produce friction and competition of some sort, and seems, with its keen edge and endless mobility, to be the born implacable foe of the dull, dead givenness of the Institutional, and of the equal givenness of any one Emotional mood. One of the spontaneous activities of the human soul, the Analytic and Speculative faculty, seems habitually, instinctively to labour at depersonalizing all it touches, and thus continually both to undermine and discrown the deeply personal work and world of the experimental forces of the soul. Indeed the thinking seems to be doing this necessarily, since by its very essence it begins and ends with laws, qualities, functions, and parts,—with abstractions, which, at best, can be but skeletons and empty forms of the real and actual, and which, of themselves, ever tend to represent all Reality as something static, not dynamic, as a thing, not as a person or Spirit.

Here again the true solution will be found in an ever fuller conception of Personality, and of its primary place in the religious life. For even the bare possibility of the truth of all religion, especially of any one of the characteristic doctrines of Christianity, involves a group of personalist convictions. Here the human person begins more as a possibility than a reality. Here the moral and spiritual character has to be built up slowly, painfully, laboriously, throughout all the various stages and circumstances of life, with their endless combinations of pleasure and pain, trouble and temptation, inner and outer help and hindrance, success and failure. Here the simply Individual is transformed into the truly Personal only by the successive sacrifice of the lower, of the merely animal and impoverishingly selfish self, with the help of God’s constant prevenient, concomitant, and subsequent grace. And here this constantly renewed dropping and opposing of the various lower selves, in proportion as they appear and become lower, to the soul’s deepest insight, in the growing light of its conscience and the increasing elevation of the moral personality, involves that constant death to self, that perpetual conversion, that unification and peace in and through a continuous inner self-estrangement and conflict, which is the very breath and joy of the religious life.

Only if all this be so, to a quite unpicturable extent, can even the most elementary Christianity be more than an[77] amiable intruder, or a morbid surplusage in the world. And at same time, if all this be so, then all within us is in need of successive, never-ending purification and elaboration; and the God who has made man with a view to his gradually achieving, and conquering his real self, must have stored means and instruments, for the attainment of this man’s true end, constant readiness, within himself. Now our whole Intellectual nature is a great storehouse of one special class of such instruments. For it is clear that the moral and spiritual side of our nature will, more than any other, constantly require three things: Rest, Expression, and Purification. And the intellectual activities will, if only they be kept sufficiently vigorous and independent, alone be in a position sufficiently to supply some forms of these three needs. For they can rest the moral-spiritual activities, since they, the intellectual ones, primarily neglect emotion, action, and persons, and are directly occupied with abstractions and with things. They can and should express the results of those moral, spiritual activities, because the religious facts and experiences require, like all other facts, to be constantly stated and re-stated by the intellect in terms fairly understandable by the civilization and culture of the successive ages of the world. Above all, they can help to purify those moral-spiritual activities, owing to their interposing, by their very nature, a zone of abstraction, of cool, clear thinking, of seemingly adequate and exhaustive, but actually impoverishing and artificial concepts, and of apparently ultimate, though really only phenomenal determinism, between the direct informations of the senses, to which the Individual clings, and the inspirations of the moral and spiritual nature, which constitute the Person. Thus this intellectual abstractive element is, if neither minimized in the life of the soul, nor allowed to be its sole element or its last, a sobering, purifying, mortifying, vivifying bath and fire.

VII. Three Final Objections to such a conception of Religion, and their Answers.

Now there are three obvious objections to such a conception: with their consideration, this Introduction shall conclude.

1. This conception not excessively intellectual.

Does not, in the first place, such a view of life appear[78] preposterously intellectual? What of the uneducated, of the toiling millions? What of most women and of all children? Are then all these, the overwhelming majority of mankind, the objects of Christ’s predilection, the very types chosen by Himself of His spirit and of God’s ideal for man, precluded from an essential element of religion? Or are we, at the least, to hold that an ethical and spiritual advantage is necessarily attached, and this too for but a small minority of mankind, to a simply intellectual function and activity? If there was a thing specially antagonistic to Christ and condemned by Him, it was the arrogance of the Schools of His day; if there is a thing apparently absent from Christ’s own life it is all philosophizing: even to suggest its presence seems at once to disfigure and to lower Him. Is then Reasoning, the School, to be declared not only necessary for some and for mankind at large, but necessary, in a sense, for all men and for the religious life itself?

The answer to all this appears not far to seek. The element which we have named the intellectual, is but one of the faculties of every living soul; and hence, in some degree and form, it is present and operative in every one of us. And there is probably no greater difference between these degrees and forms, with regard to this element, than there is between the degrees and forms found in the other two elements of religion. For this intellectual, determinist element would be truly represented by every however simple mental attention to things and their mechanism, their necessary laws and requirements. Hence, the Venerable Anna Maria Taigi, the Roman working-man’s wife, attending to the requirements and rules of good washing and of darning of clothes; St. Jean Batiste de la Salle, the Breton gentleman, studying the psychology of school-children’s minds, and adapting his school system to it; St. Jerome labouring at his minute textual criticism of manuscripts of all kinds; St. Anselm and St. Thomas toiling at the construction of their dialectic systems,—all these, amongst endless other cases, are but illustrations of the omnipresence and endless variety of this element, which is busy with the rules and processes that govern things.

And it is impossible to see why, simply because of their superior intellectual gifts and development, men like Clement of Alexandria and Origen, Cassian and Duns Scotus, Nicolas of Coes and Pascal, Rosmini and Newman, should count as necessarily less near to God and Christ, than others with[79] fewer of such gifts and opportunities. For it is not as though such gifts were considered as ever of themselves constituting any moral or spiritual worth. Nothing can be more certain than that great mental powers can be accompanied by emptiness or depravity of heart. The identical standard is to be applied to these as to all other gifts: they are not to be considered as substitutes, but only as additional material and means for the moral and spiritual life; and it is only inasmuch as they are actually so used, that they can effectively help on sanctity itself. It is only contended here that such gifts do furnish additional means and materials for the devoted will- and grace-moved soul, towards the richest and deepest spiritual life. For the intellectual virtues are no mere empty name: candour, moral courage, intellectual honesty, scrupulous accuracy, chivalrous fairness, endless docility to facts, disinterested collaboration, unconquerable hopefulness and perseverance, manly renunciation of popularity and easy honours, love of bracing labour and strengthening solitude: these and many other cognate qualities bear upon them the impress of God and of His Christ. And yet they all as surely find but a scanty field of development outside of the intellectual life, as they are not the only virtues or class of virtues, and as the other two elements each produce a quite unique group of virtues of their own and require other means and materials for their exercise.

2. Such a conception not Pelagian.

But, in the second place, is not such a view of life Pelagian at bottom? Have we not argued throughout, as if the religious life were to be begun, and carried on, and achieved simply by a constant succession of efforts of our own; and as though it could be built up by us, like to some work of art, by a careful, conscious balancing of part against part? Is not all this pure Naturalism? Is not religion a life, and hence an indivisible whole? And is not this life simply the gift of God, capable of being received, but not produced by us; of being dimly apprehended as present, but not of being clearly analyzed in its process of formation?

Here again there is a true answer, I think. Simply all and every one of our acts, our very physical existence and persistence, is dependent, at every moment and in every direction, upon the prevenient, accompanying and subsequent power and help of God; and still more is every religious, every truly spiritual and supernatural act of the soul impossible[80] without the constant action of God’s grace. Yet not only does all this not prevent the soul from consciously acting on her own part, and according to the laws of her own being; but God’s grace acts in and through the medium of her acts, inasmuch as these are good: so that the very same action which, seen as it were from without, is the effect of our own volition, is, seen as it were from within, the effect of God’s grace. The more costly is our act of love or of sacrifice, the more ethical and spiritual, and the more truly it is our own deepest self-expression, so much the more, at the same time, is this action a thing received as well as given, and that we have it to give, and that we can and do give it, is itself a pure gift of God.

What then is wanted, if we would really cover the facts of the case, is evidently not a conception which would minimize the human action, and would represent the latter as shrinking, in proportion as God’s action increases; but one which, on the contrary, fully faces, and keeps a firm hold of, the mysterious paradox which pervades all true life, and which shows us the human soul as self-active in proportion to God’s action within it, according to St. Bernard’s doctrine already quoted. Grace and the Will thus rise and fall, in their degree of action, together; and man will never be so fully active, so truly and intensely himself, as when he is most possessed by God.

And since man’s action is thus in actual fact mysteriously double, it should ever be so considered by him; and he should, as St. Ignatius of Loyola says, “pray as if all depended on his prayer, and act as if all depended on his action.” Hence all man’s action, though really incapable of existing for an instant without the aid of God, and though never exclusively his own, can be studied throughout, preliminarily as though it were his exclusive production on its analyzable, human side. And man not only can, he ought to be as thoughtful and careful, as reasonably analytic and systematic about this study of his action as he was careful and consistent in its production,—in both cases, whilst praying and believing as though it were all from God, he can and should behave also as though this action were exclusively his own. As St. Thomas admirably says:[81] “We attribute one and the same effect both to a natural cause and to a divine force, not in the sense of that effect proceeding in part from God, and in part from the human agent. But the effect proceeds entire from both, according to a different mode: just as, in music, the whole effect is attributed to the instrument, and the same entire effect is referred to man as the principal agent.”[41]

3. Such a conception not Epicurean.

But, in the last place, is not such a view of life Epicurean? Where is the Cross and Self-Renunciation? Is it not Christ Himself Who has bidden us cut off our right hand and pluck out our right eye, if they offend; Who has declared that he who hateth not his own father and mother for His sake is not worthy of Him; Who has asked, “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” and Who has pronounced a special woe upon the rich, and a special blessing upon the poor in spirit? Does not our view, on the contrary, bid a man attend to his hands and eyes, rather than to their possible or even actual offending, euphemistically described here as “friction”; bid him love his father and mother, even though this introduce a conflict into his affections; bid him take care to gain, as far as may be, the whole of his own possible interior and exterior world, as though this would of itself be equivalent to his saving his soul; and thus bid him become rich and full and complex, an aesthete rather than a man of God? In a word, is not our position a masked Paganism, a new Renaissance rather than the nobly stern old Christianity?

Now here again a true answer is found in a clear intelligence of the actual implications of the position. For if the Intellectual action were here taken as capable of alone, or in any degree directly, forming the foundation of all our other life, so that on a mathematically clear and complete system, appealing to and requiring the abstractive powers alone, would, later on, be built, according to our own further determination, the Institutional and Experimental, or both or neither; then such a position, if possible and actualized, would indeed save us the simultaneous energizing of our whole complex nature, and would, so far, well deserve the accusation of unduly facilitating life; it might be taken as, at least, not beginning with the Cross. But here this is not so. For from the first the External and the Mystical elements are held to be at least as necessary and operative as the Intellectual element; and it is impossible to see how the elimination of this latter, and of the ever-expensive keeping it and its rivals each at[82] their own work, could deepen the truly moral sufferings and sacrifices of the soul’s life.

If again the Intellectual action were taken, as by Gnosticism of all sorts, as the eventual goal of the whole, so that the External and Mystical would end by being absorbed into the Intellectual, our Knowledge becoming coextensive with Reality itself, then we might again, and with still deeper truth, be accused of eliminating the element of effort and of sacrifice,—the Cross. But here, on the contrary, not only the Intellectual alone does not begin the soul’s life or build up its conditions, but the Intellectual alone does not conclude and crown it. Eternally will different soul-functions conjoin in a common work, eternally will God and the souls of our fellows be for us realities in diverse degrees outside and beyond of our own apprehension of them, and eternally shall we apprehend them differently and to a different degree by our intelligence, by our affection, and by our volition. Hence, even in eternity itself we can, without exceeding the limits of sober thinking and of psychological probability, find a field for the exercise by our souls of something corresponding to the joy and greatness of noble self-sacrifice here below. The loving soul will there, in the very home of love, give itself wholly to and be fulfilled by God, and yet the soul will possess an indefinitely heightened apprehension of the immense excess of this its love and act above its knowledge, and of God Himself above both. And here again it is impossible to see how the elimination of the intellectual element, which becomes thus the very measure of the soul’s own limitations, and of the exceeding greatness of its love and of its Lover, would make the conception more efficaciously humbling and Christian.

Both at the beginning, then, and throughout, and even at the end of the soul’s life, the intellectual element is necessary, and this above all for the planting fully and finally, in the very depths of the personality, the Cross, the sole means to the soul’s true Incoronation.






Each of the three Elements of Religion, again multiple. The two main functions of each.

We have so far considered religion as constituted, on its human side, by the interaction of three modalities,—the Historical, the Intellectual, the Experimental. But it is of course clear that each of these is again, just because it is a living force, a Multiplicity in Unity. The first distinction we can find in each would break each up into two parts.

The Historical modality readily gives us the function busy with the Historical Person and the function occupied with the Historical Thing. The former function will insist upon all the temporal and local sayings, doings, and happenings, that together make up the picture and memory of the Prophet or Founder; the latter will transmit certain rites and symbols instituted or occasioned by him. And either the suppression of these latter things, or the taking them apart from the person from whom they issued and to whom they ever should lead back, will turn out equally impoverishing: the very friction of this Thing, coming from a Person, and leading to a Person, and operating within our own personality, will be found to help to make the latter truly such.

The Intellectual modality will as readily split up into the Analytic and the Synthetic. The former will busy itself with distinguishing and weighing, and with reducing everything as far as possible to its constituent elements. The latter will attempt to reconstitute the living whole, as far as may be, in such terms of clear reason. The former will have more affinity with the discursive reason, the second with the contemplative; the former with religious History, and the approaches to religious Philosophy,—Physiology and[86] Experimental Psychology and the Theory of Knowledge; the latter with Religious Philosophy proper,—the Metaphysics of Religion.

The Experimental modality, finally, will as readily break up into Intuitions and Feelings of every mental and moral kind, and Willings, the determinations of which, close as they are to the feelings, are not identical with them, but often exist more or less without or even against them.

And this whole series of six movements exists only in Persons; it begins with an at least incipient Person and ends in the fullest self-expression of Personality, the determination of the will. And Things—both external (Institutions) and internal (analytic and synthetic Abstractions)—are but ever operative, necessary means towards the firm constitution and expansion of that rich life of the living soul within which the first apprehension and ordering of such thinkings and doings took their rise.

I. Proposed Study of the Mystical-Volitional Element in a Particular, Concrete Instance: St. Catherine of Genoa.

Now it is the fact of the Multiplicity in Unity, to be found in each of these modalities of religion, that makes it desirable to study each of them, as far as may be, separately. And of these the deepest and most near to our living selves, and hence also most far away from our clear analysis, is the Experimental. It is this Element then that I propose to study in a particular concrete instance: St. Catherine of Genoa.

1. Disadvantages of such a method and of this particular instance.

The disadvantage arising from such a method of procedure is obvious: no one life, even were it the richest and most completely knowable, can exhaust, can indeed do more than simply suggest, the true questions, let alone the adequate answers. But such a biographical study can hope to arouse attention and interest in the living facts of religion, in a manner in which no simple theory or generalization can do; and it can stand out, in the midst of any such attempt at explanation, as an emphatic reminder, to both writer and reader, of the inexhaustible richness and mystery, of the[87] awe-inspiring and yet stimulating surplusage which is ever furnished by reality over and above all our best endeavours at commensurate presentation or analysis.

And quite special disadvantages attach to the study of this particular Saint. Her character, for one thing, is distinctly wanting in humour, in that shrewd mother-wit which is so marked a feature in some of the great Spanish Mystics, in St. Teresa especially, but which is not quite absent even in the less varied and very austere St. John of the Cross. There is, on the contrary, a certain monotony, a somewhat wearying vehemence, about our Genoese. Her experience, again, is without the dramatic vicissitudes of the reform of an Order or the foundation of Monasteries, as with St. Teresa; or of contact and even conflict with the temporal and spiritual officiality of her time, as with St. Catherine of Siena. Nor is her life lit up by the beautiful warmth of happy, requited domestic affection, nor is it varied and extended by the rich possession of children of her own. And again her life is obscured and complicated, at least for our comprehension of it, by a nervous ill-health which it is impossible for us to care about, in itself. And, finally, special difficulties attach to the understanding of her. Unlike St. Teresa, St. John of the Cross, and many other Saints, she did not herself write one line of her so-called “Writings”; and yet it is these, mostly very abstruse and at times all but insuperably difficult, “Writings,” records which did not attain their present form and bulk till a good forty years after her death, that contain the most original part of her legacy to the Church.

2. The drawbacks of the instance outweighed by its rare combination of characteristics.

Yet all this is balanced if not exceeded by a rare and stimulating combination of characteristics. The very ordinariness of her external lot,—a simple wife and widow, at no time belonging to any Religious Order or Congregation; the apparently complete failure of her earthly life, which gives occasion to the birth within her of the heavenly one; the rich variety and contrasts of her princely birth and social position, and the lowly, homely activity and usefulness of her forty years of devotedness; the unusually perfect combination of a great external action and administrative capacity with a lofty contemplation; the apparent suddenness and whole-hearted swiftness of her Conversion, succeeded by the long years of interior conflict and painful growth, unhelped,[88] practically unknown, by any one but God’s inspiring Spirit, and these years again followed by a period of requiring and practising the ordinary mediate docilities; the strange nervous health of especially her later years, so carefully and truthfully recorded for us, a psychic condition interesting if but for her own lofty superiority to attaching any direct importance or necessarily miraculous meaning to it: all this, even if it were all, helps to give an extraordinary richness and instructiveness to her life.

But stimulating, transfiguring, embracing all this, appears her special spiritual apprehension and teaching, of a quite extraordinary depth, breadth and balance, distinction and refinement. The central oneness of the soul’s nature and sufferings and joys here and hereafter, and the resultant psychological character and appeal, to be found in all true experience or forecasting of such things; the never-ceasing difference between Spirit and Matter; the incomprehensibility, but indefinite apprehensibleness, for the clean of heart, of God and spiritual realities; the pure disinterestedness of His love for us, and the corresponding disinterestedness of all true love for Him; the universality of His light and love, and the excess of His mercy above His justice; the innate affinity between every human soul and Him, and the immanence of Himself within us; the absence of all arbitrary or preternatural action in the forces and realities constitutive of the spiritual world and life; the constant union of right suffering with deep peace, and the final note of joy and of self-conquering triumph issuing from complete self-renunciation: all this and much more appears in her teaching with a spontaneity, breadth, and balance peculiarly its own.

3. Men who have been devoted to her spirit. Its vitality.

No wonder then that, from the contemporary circle of her devoted friends and disciples onwards, Catherine should have attracted, throughout the centuries and in many lands, a remarkable number of deep minds and saintly characters. The ardent young Spaniard, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and the shrewd and solid Savoyard Bishop, St. François de Sales, love to quote and dwell upon her example and her doctrine. Mature theologians, such as Cardinal Bellarmine, the hard-headed controversialist; Cardinal Bona, the liturgical and devotional writer; and Cardinal de Berulle, the mystical-minded founder of the French Oratory; and again, such[89] varied types of devotedness as Madame Acarie, the foundress of the French Reformed Carmelites; the Baron de Renté, that noble Christian soldier; Bossuet, the hard and sensible; and Fénelon, the elastic and exquisite,—all love her well. Such thoroughly representative ascetical writers again as the Spanish Jesuits Francisco Arias and Alfonzo Rodriguez; the French ones, Saint-Jure and Jean Joseph Surin; the Italian, Paolo Segneri; the Pole, Lancisius; and the German, Drexel, all drew food and flame from her character and doctrine. Then at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, Friedrich von Schlegel, the penetrating, many-sided leader of the German Romantic school, translated her Dialogue. In our own time Father Isaac Hecker, that striking German-American, loved her as a combination of contemplation and external action; Father Faber strongly endorsed her conception of Purgatory; Cardinal Manning occasioned and prefaced an admirable translation of her Treatise; and Cardinal Newman has incorporated her Purgatorial teaching in the noblest of his poems, “The Dream of Gerontius.” Indeed, General Charles Gordon also can not unfairly be claimed as her unconscious disciple, since her teaching, embodied in Cardinal Newman’s poem, was, besides the Bible and “Imitations,” his one written source of strength and consolation, during that noble Christian captain’s heroic death-watch at Khartoum. And among quite recent or still living writers, Mr. Aubrey de Vere has given us a refined poetic paraphrase of her Treatise, and Father George Tyrrell has developed its theme in one of his most striking Essays.[42]

I too have, in my own way, long cared for her example and teaching, and for the great questions and solutions suggested by both. A dozen times and more have I visited and lingered over the chief scenes of her activity; and the literary sources of all our knowledge of her life have been dwelt upon by me for twenty years and more.

I have but very few new details and combinations to offer, in so far as her external life is concerned. It is with regard to the growth of her historic image and the curious vicissitudes[90] which I have been able to trace in the complication of her “Writings”; as to her spirit and teaching; and as to the place and function to be allotted in the religious life to such realities and phenomena as those presented by her, that I hope to be able to contribute something of value. For although the substance and the primary phenomena of religion are eternal, they appear in each soul with an individuality and freshness pathetically unique; and their attempted analysis and apprehension, and their relations to the other departments of human life, necessarily grow and vary. Indeed it would be truly sad, and would rightly tempt to disbelief in an overruling Providence and divine education of the human race, if the four centuries that intervene between our Saint and ourselves had taught us little or nothing of value, in such matters of borderland and interpretation as nervous health, the psychology of religion, and the distinguishing differences between Christian and Neo-Platonic Mysticism. Whole Sciences, indeed the Scientific, above all the Historic spirit itself, have arisen or have come to maturity since her day. Hence the realities of her life, as of every religious life, remain fresh indeed with the deathless vitality of love and grace, and but very partially explicable still; and yet the highest intellectual honour of each successive period should be found in an ever-renewed attempt at an ever less inadequate apprehension and utilization of these highest and deepest manifestations of Authority, Reason, and Experience,—of the Divine in our poor human life.

II. The Materials and Aids towards such a Study.

1. The “Vita e Dottrina,” 1551.

All the biographies of St. Catherine, and all the editions or translations of her “Works,” are based upon the Vita e Dottrina published in Genoa, by Jacobo Genuti, in 1551. I work from the thirteenth Genoese edition, a reprint of that of 1847 (Tipi dei Sordo-Muti). All our knowledge of her mental and physical condition, and of her spiritual doctrine, is practically restricted to this book, and indeed, as we shall see, to its first two parts, the “Vita” and the “Trattato.”

The Vita is, in its fundamental portions, the joint production of her devoted disciples, Cattaneo Marabotto, a Secular Priest, her Confessor; and Ettore Vernazza, a[91] Lawyer, her “spiritual son.” Its fifty-two chapters (166 octavo pages) are only in small part narrative; quite thirty-five of them are filled with discourses and contemplations of the Saint, evidently, in the simpler of the many parallel versions accumulated here, taken down, at the time of the Saint’s communication of them, with quite remarkable fidelity. But the whole suffers from the inclusion of much secondary, amplifying, repetitive matter; is badly arranged; is kept, almost throughout, above all definite indications of the precise successions, dates, and places; and is deficient in unity of view and literary organization. The result is, of necessity, largely insipid and monotonous.

The first of the “Works” is the Treatise on Purgatory, the seventeen chapters of which (17 pages) are again hard reading, owing to their evidently consisting of but a mosaic of detached, sometimes parallel sayings, spoken on various occasions and according to the experience and fulness of the moment, and without any reference to the previous one. I shall show reason for holding that this little collection of sayings was originally shorter still (consisting probably of but the matter which now makes up the first seven of its seventeen chapters); that the original chronicler and first redactor of these sayings was Vernazza; and that certain obvious and formal contradictions which appear in the present text must be theological glosses introduced some time between 1520 (or rather 1526) and say 1530 (at latest 1547).

The second of the “Works,” the Spiritual Dialogue between the Soul, the Body, Self-love, the Spirit, the Natural Man, and the Lord God, is divided into three parts, and fills forty-five chapters (120 pages). I hope to show conclusively that this Dialogue was at first no longer than its present Part I; that even this did not exist before 1547; that the whole was written by one and the same person, some one who had never (at least intimately) known the Saint, and who had no other direct material than our present Vita and Trattato; that this person was the Augustinian canoness, Battista Vernazza, Ettore’s eldest daughter; and that the whole has been written for the purpose of attempting some unification and systematization of what in the Vita appeared to the writer as wanting in unity and in correctness of wording or of feeling. In this case we get a fairly continuous re-statement, in part a heightening, in part a minimizing of the historical facts of Catherine’s life, which, just because we have thus a pragmatic,[92] theological transfiguration of the older materials, caused by a penetrating admiration, and resulting in some true increase of insight into its subject-matter, forms a precious document for the psychology and the effect of such states of mind.

The Oratorian Giacinto Parpera’s book: B Caterina da Genova … Illustrata, Genova, 1682, gives, in its three parts, respectively the opinions of Saints and Theologians concerning the Saint; a systematic analysis of her doctrine; and an explanation of certain terms and declarations more or less peculiar to her. It is decidedly learned and in parts still useful; but pompously rhetorical and full of “anatomia,” i.e. much wearisome numbering and indefinite sub-division. The Jesuit Padre Maineri’s Vita de S. Caterina di Genova, Genova, 1737,—written on occasion of her canonization,—contains nothing new.

2. Later books on Catherine.

A sensible discussion of difficult or obscure points connected with her life occurs in the Bollandists’ Life of the Saint, written by Father Sticken in 1752 (Acta Sanctorum, September, Vol. V, ed. 1866, pp. 123-195). But the greater part of the discussion is vitiated by the assumption of the independent value, indeed of Catherine herself being the author, of the entirely secondary Dialogo; Sticken had not seen a single MS. life or document; and the most important part of her entire personality, her doctrine, had, according to the general plan of the work, to be passed over by him.

I have also had before me Alban Butler’s accurate compilation; Monseigneur Paul Fliche’s disappointing book, which, though he declares that he has consulted the MSS. Lives, is but a rhetorical amplification of the Life of 1551, with here and there a useful date or other detail added by himself (Paris, 1881); and the Rev. Baring Gould’s hasty and slipshod account, which completely ignores the “Works” (Lives of the Saints, Vol. X, ed. 1898).

But by far the most important printed matter which has hitherto appeared since 1551, indeed the only one which contains anything at all significant that is not already in the Vita ed Opere, is Sebastiano Vallebona’s booklet, La Perla dei Fieschi, Genova, 2nd ed., 1887, 109 pp. It publishes many a painstaking recovery and identification of various dates and sites, relationships, family documents and contemporary events; and has helped me greatly in such matters.


3. The Manuscripts.

It is, however, to the careful analysis of the important still extant MS. material, that I owe far more than to all the printed matter subsequent to 1551. And indeed I can say without exaggeration that this is the first serious attempt at a critical presentation of Catherine’s Life and Teaching. A detailed account of my materials and method will be given in the Appendix to this volume.

III. Peculiarities of the Genoese Climate And Geographical Position; of the Ligurian Character; and of the Times into which Catherine was born. Her Family, Father and Mother.

Catherine Fiesca was born in Genoa, towards the end of the year 1447.[43] She thus belonged to a race and a time full indeed of violence and conflict, intrigue and cruelty, excessive in all things; but hence full too of courage and of daring, of boundlessly expansive energies, and of throbbing life.

1. The Genoese country and character.

Lying at the foot of imposing mountain terraces, at the great central bend and chief natural harbour of the rocky, sun-baked, mountain-backed Riviera, Genoa formed, from early, pre-Roman days, the natural capital of this thin strip of territory which, eastward from Spezia and westward from Nice, looks all along towards the sea, and towards the broad blue sea alone. And the natural influences of the country seem ever to have been met and doubled by a fierce, explosive strain in the characters of the successive races that peopled this narrow, steep, hot sea-board. The ferocious, wild Ligurians gave the Romans trouble, right up to the end of their dominion; and the subsequent Lombard invasion and subjugation did little to change their character. The keen rivals of Venice, in her trade and power in the East, and the mortal foes of their competitor Pisa, so near to their own gates, the Genoese did much for trade and commerce, but little for science and art, and were feared and hated by the Tuscans, in their rich and fertile lands, and with their large[94] and liberal culture. Sailors, adventurers, free-booters; great merchants and carriers and bankers; conspirators and revolutionaries,—they have produced great admirals, such as Andrea Doria; great administrative and warlike Popes, in the persons of the two masterful, irascible della Roveres, from the twenty miles distant Savona,—Sixtus IV, and Michael Angelo’s friend and patron, Julius II; a great navigator, in Christopher Columbus; a fierce and fanatical, but lofty and utterly disinterested revolutionary, in Mazzini; and a brave, reckless condottiere in Garibaldi, born as far away as Nice, but whose mother came from the near Chiavari.

2. The times into which Catherine was born.

And our Saint was born in the midst of singularly active, changeful, far-outward-looking, swift-onward-moving times. Columbus had been born the year before; Fust and Gutenberg were printing the first printed books three years later; Constantinople was taken by the Turks when she was six years old.

The Mediaeval system was, at last, breaking up fast. That whole conception of life and polity of peoples had rendered services too great, indeed too unique, to civilization and religion; they had been for too long the faithful instrument, expression and result of a certain stage and aspect of human and Christian character and development, for this break-up not to have been slow, reluctant, and intermittent at first, notwithstanding the heavy blows levelled, often unconsciously, at the system from both within and without the Church. Pope Boniface’s Bull, Unam Sanctam, which stretched and strained the Mediaeval conception to breaking-point (1302); the dreary blank and confusion of the seventy years of the Avignon exile of the Papacy (1309-1377); the thirty years’ distraction of the great Papal Schism (1378-1409); the fierce revolts and tragic fates of Wycliffe and of Hus, in 1384 and 1415; the ineffectual Council of Constance (1414-1418),—all this had already taken place. And not even such saintly figures as Tauler and Blessed Henry Suso in Germany, and St. Catherine of Siena in Italy and France; or such nobly reforming characters as the French Chancellor Gerson, who had died eighteen years before our Saint’s birth (1429); or the bold and spiritual German Philosopher-Cardinal Nicolas of Coes, who died when she was seventeen (1464),—could achieve more than to announce and prepare the transition to a great modification of Christendom, and to indicate the[95] eternal and necessary source from which it must spring, and the new temporal, contingent form which it might take.

But the scandals, revolts, and repressions, on a scale and with results which turned Reform into Revolution, and broke up Western Europe into those two hostile camps, which, towards the end of four centuries, we see, alas! hostile still—these things were yet to come. Roderigo Borgia was to be Pope (1492-1503) only towards the end of her life. And only after she had been seven years dead, was Luther to nail his theses on the University-Church door at Wittenberg (1517), and more than a generation later were Mary Tudor in England and Philip II in Spain (1553-1598) to attempt, for the last time on so large a scale, the task of keeping and winning minds and souls, by ruthless physical repression.

Catherine lived thus within a period which, in its depths, was already modern, but not yet broken up into seemingly final, institutionalized internecine antagonisms. And hence we can get in her a most restful and bracing pure affirmativeness, an entire absence of religious controversy, such as, of necessity, cannot be found in even such predominantly interior souls as the great Post-Reformation Spanish Mystics. Her whole religion can grow and show itself as simply positive, and in rivalry and conflict with her own false self and with that alone.

3. The Fieschi family.

And the particular family from which she sprang, and the period of its history at which she appeared, each helped to bring right into her blood and immediate surroundings the more general conditions of her race and time.

The Fieschi had indeed a long past story, securely traceable through a good two centuries and a half before Catherine’s birth. They sprang from the little seaside town of Lavagna, twenty English miles east of Genoa, where shipbuilding is still carried on. Here it was that Sinibaldo de’ Fieschi, the first of the two Popes of the family, Innocent IV (1243-1254), was born, whose whole Pontificate was one long vehement struggle with his former friend, the masterful and sceptical Emperor Frederic II of Germany. His nephew was Pope, under the title of Hadrian V, for but a few months (1276). It was from Pope Innocent’s brother Robert that St. Catherine was descended.

The Fieschi were the greatest of the great Guelph families of Genoa, such as the Grimaldi, Guarchi, and Montaldi. The[96] great Doria family, with the Spinola, Fregosi, and Adorni was as strongly Ghibelline. And the endless, fierce conflict between these two factions, in Genoa itself and along both Rivieras, led to the calling in, and to the temporary supremacy over Genoa, of the Dukes of Milan, the Counts of Montferrat, and of the Kings of Naples and of France. The Revolution of 1339, which put an end to the exclusive rule of the Nobles, and introduced elective Doges or Dukes as life-long heads of the Republic, really altered little or nothing of all this.

Indeed the Fieschi had, just now at Catherine’s birth, reached the full height of their power and worldly splendour. For the two Popes of the family had already reigned two centuries before, and Cardinal Luca Fieschi lay buried in the Cathedral for over a hundred years; but the Fieschi now possessed numerous fiefs in Liguria, Piedmont, Lombardy, and even in the Kingdom of Naples; Nicolò Fieschi, a cousin of the Saint, was, in Catherine’s time, a prominent member of the College of Cardinals; and her own father was Viceroy of Naples to King René of Anjou. There was indeed exactly a century yet to run, up to the beginning of the downward course of the family,—the disastrous conspiracy of the Fieschi against the Dorias (1547), which forms the subject of Schiller’s well-known play.

Catherine’s father had been Viceroy of Naples to that René Duc of Anjou, Count of Provence, Duke of Lorraine, and titular King of Naples, whose adventurous career and immensely popular character still stand out so vividly in history. The “roi débonnaire,” the friend of the Troubadours and father of Margaret of Anjou, Consort to King Henry VI of England, figures life-like in Scott’s Anne of Geierstein; and his strikingly bourgeois profile may still be seen, as part of the vivid portraiture of his kneeling figure which faces the corresponding one of his Queen, upon the great contemporary triptyche picture, representing in its central division the Madonna and Child in the branches of a tree (in allusion to the Burning Bush and the Rod of Jesse), which hangs in the choir of the cathedral of Aix, King René’s old wind-swept and now sleepy Provençal capital. Since Charles I of Anjou (1265-1285), the Angevine Kings had made Naples the capital of their Kingdom; Duke René was the last of the Angevines to hold or seriously to claim it. He lost it in 1442 to the Spaniards; but still in 1459 he attempted, by means of a Genoese fleet, to repossess himself of his old kingdom, so that[97] Catherine’s father could, even up to the time of his death in 1462, retain the title of Vice-Roy of Naples. Her mother, Francesca di Negro, also belonged to an ancient and noble Genoese family.

IV. Catherine’s Life, up to the Preliminaries of her Conversion: Autumn 1447-Mid-March 1474.

1. The house where she was born; her brothers and sister.

Catherine was born in one of the many palaces of the Fieschi, in the one which stood in the Vico Filo, close to the dark grey limestone façade of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. The palace was hemmed in, on its two sides and at its back, by the houses of Urbano and Sebastiano di Negri, and was demolished when the then Piazza dei Fieschi was enlarged and became the present Piazza di San Lorenzo. The house now facing the Cathedral doorway occupies approximately the site of that old palace.

She was the youngest of five children. There were three sons: Giacomo, named after his father; and Lorenzo and Giovanni, no doubt named respectively after the great Roman deacon, the titular saint of the Cathedral, and who already appeared upon his gridiron, on the quaint Mediaeval relief over its portal; and after the Baptist, whose reputed relics lay there, in the great Chapel, rebuilt for them soon after this time (1451-1496). Last came the two daughters: Limbania, named after a beatified virgin and contemplative, a Genoese Augustinian Nun of the thirteenth century, and Catherine, christened and in all the legal documents always called by this diminutive, presumably after St. Catherine of Alexandria, who had an altar in the Cathedral. And the Cathedral was their Parish Church.

2. Catherine’s physical appearance; her qualities and habits of body and of mind.

In this house, then, Catherine grew up and lived till she was sixteen. The beautiful, tall figure; the noble oval face with its lofty brow, finely formed nose, and powerful, indeed obstinate chin; the winning countenance with its delicate complexion and curling, sensitive, spiritual mouth-line; deep grey-blue spiritual eyes; the long, tapering fingers; the massive dark brown or black hair; still more the quickly and intensely impressionable, nervous and extremely tense and[98] active physical and psychical organization; and then the very affectionate, ardent, aspiring, impatient and absolute qualities and habits of her mind and heart and will,—all these things we are not merely told, we can still see them and find them, in part, even in her remains, but more fully in her portrait, and above all, in her numerous authentic utterances.[44]


3. The few certain details concerning her early years. Santa Maria delle Grazie.

We have, as only too often in such older biographies, but very few precise and characteristic details concerning her early years. She had in her room a Pietà, a representation of the Dead Christ in His Mother’s arms, and we are told how deeply it affected her every time she entered this room, and raised her eyes up to it. The other points mentioned, her early bodily penances, silence, and gift of prayer (the latter said to have been communicated to her at twelve years of age), read[100] suspiciously like simple assumptions made by her biographers, and in any case do not help to individualize her, in these years of uncertain, tentative, or as yet but little characteristic, forms of goodness.

But from thirteen, for three years onwards, the young girl is very certainly and deeply drawn to the Conventual life, as she sees it practised by her sister Limbania, who, true to the example of her own Genoese Augustinian Patron Saint, had become a member of the Augustinian Canonesses of our Lady of Graces, and now lived there happy and devoted in the midst of that very fervent and cultivated Community. Limbania was one of the nineteen Foundresses of this Convent, who, on August 5, 1451, received the habit of Canonesses Regular of the Lateran, from the hands of Padre Giovanni de’ Gatti, at that time Superior of S. Teodoro outside the walls of Genoa, a house of the same Order. Among these Novices occur a Simonetta di Negro, no doubt a cousin of Catherine, and Nicola and Lucia da Nove, two sisters; these facts will have helped Catherine to hope for admission together with her own sister Limbania.[45]

The Convent and its Chapel, both secularized, are still in existence, at a quarter of an hour’s walk from Catherine’s palace-home. Moving from here, along the Vico Chiabrera, up the Via dei Maruffi (now San Bernardo), and across the latter, up one of the many steep, very narrow little alleys, to the Piazza dei Embriaci, and again up by the tall, slim, grey tower of the Crusader Guilielmo Embriaco, we arrive at last at a level, all but deserted, sun-baked piazza, called, after its Church, Sta Maria in Passione. Face this Church, and the long, tall house on your left hand, covered with dim, faded frescoes, is Limbania’s Convent, so loved by Catherine. The right door leads into the Chapel, which Vallebona[46] found in 1887 in use as a wood-store, and which I saw in May 1900 turned into a music-hall: where the altar had stood, were a dingy stage, and tawdry wings. The pompous frescoes and stuccos on the walls and ceiling are evidently of the seventeenth century or even later. The adjoining Convent still retains a small figure of St. Augustine sculptured on a corbel on the vault of the first landing. The Byzantine, dark brown Madonna-and-Child picture, which Catherine so often prayed[101] before in the Chapel, can still be seen, on the left-hand wall of the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, in the Church of S. Maria di Castello, which is close by, at a lower level than the Piazza of the Convent.

4. Catherine’s marriage. The Adorni family.

The Convent Chaplain was Catherine’s Confessor, and through him she attempted to gain the permission of the Nuns to enter their Community. But whilst they hesitated and put her off, on the very reasonable ground of her unusual youth, her father died (end of 1461); and a particular combination, from amongst the endless political rivalries and intrigues of Genoa, soon closed in upon the beautiful girl, member of the greatest of the Guelph families of that turbulent time. It was a bad and sorry business, and one likes to think that the father, had he lived, would not thus have sacrificed his daughter. For if in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet we have two youthful lovers joining hands and hearts, in spite of the secular enmity of their respective houses; here, alas! in real life, we have the contrary spectacle, the deep because dreary tragedy of two great rival factions making—rather, hoping to make—peace, by the enforced union of two mutually indifferent and profoundly unsuited young people.

Not but that socially the two were admirably matched. For Giuliano Adorno belonged to a family hardly inferior in antiquity and splendour to Catherine’s own. Six different Adorni had been Doges of Genoa in 1363, 1385, 1413, 1443, 1447, 1461; and the one of 1413 had been Giuliano’s own grandfather. They were Lords of the Greek Island of Chios (Scio), which they had helped to conquer for Genoa in 1349.

And now the last Doge of the family, Prospero Adorno, had just been driven from the Ducal throne by Paolo Campofregoso, the strong-willed representative of the great rival, though also Ghibelline, family of the Fregosi. Campofregoso was now both Duke and Archbishop of Genoa. By an alliance with the Fieschi, the most powerful of the Guelph families, the Adorni could hope, in their turn, to oust the Fregosi, and to reinstate themselves at the head of the great Republic. The ideals, antipathies or indifference of a girl of sixteen were not allowed to stand in the way; and so the contract was signed on January 13, 1463.

The marriage was celebrated soon afterwards in the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, since the Campanaro family, which had built it in 1299, and the[102] Adorni, who had married into and succeeded the Campanaro, were excepted from the rule prohibiting the access of women to this Chapel. Since Cardinal Giorgio Fieschi had recently died, Bishop Napoleone Fieschi, of Albenga, presided at the ceremony.

5. Giuliano’s character. Catherine’s pre-conversion married life.

Giuliano’s father was dead; only his widowed mother, Tobia dei Franchi, remained. It was, however, with Catherine’s mother, in the old Palazzo near the Cathedral, that the young couple were to live, and actually stayed, during the first two years.

Giuliano was young and rich; his two elder brothers occupied high naval posts; his first cousin, Agostino Adorno, was a man of noble character and great initiative; and a descendant of this cousin, also Agostino, was later on Beatified. But Giuliano himself did at first worse than nothing, and never did much throughout his life. A man of an undisciplined, wayward, impatient, and explosive temper; selfish and self-indulgent; a lover of obscure and useless, in one instance criminal, squandering of his time, money, health, and affections, he did not deserve the rare woman who had been sold to him; and would possibly indeed have managed to be a better man with a wife he had really loved, or with one of a temperament and outlook more ordinary and nearer to his own. As it was, he was hardly ever at home, and, according to his own later penitent admission and testamentary provisions, he was, some time during the first ten years of his marriage, gravely unfaithful to his wife.

Catherine, on her part, spent the first five of these dreary years in sad and mournful loneliness, at first in her mother’s house, and afterwards, at least in the winter-time, in Giuliano’s own palace, a building which stood exactly where now stands the Church of Saint Philip Neri, in the Via Lomellina (at that time, Via Sant’ Agnese), and near the Piazza Annunziata. In the summer-time she would stay, mostly alone again, at Giuliano’s country seat at Prà on the Western Riviera, just beyond Pegli, and six English miles from Genoa.

This latter property is still in existence, but was, some twenty years ago, on the extinction of the male line of the Adorni, sold to the Piccardo family. The present moderate-sized house, standing close to the high-road and sea-beach, although evidently rebuilt (probably on a considerably smaller[103] scale) since Catherine’s time, no doubt occupies part at least of the old site. But the Chapel which, in the Saint’s days, adjoined the house, was described by Vallebona (in 1887) as turned into a stable; and in April 1902 an elderly serving-man of the Piccardo family showed me the precise spot, on a now level meadow expanse closely adjoining the house, where he himself, some fifteen years since, had helped to pull down this chapel-stable. He showed me the (probably seventeenth-century) picture representing the scene of the Saint’s conversion, which had, at that time, been still in this building, and which is now hung up in a small Confraternity-Chapel near by in Prà.

As to money of her own, Catherine had, as we shall see later on, her dowry of £1,000, to which Giuliano had contributed £200. But we have no evidence of any good works performed by her in this decade, although, as we shall find, it must have been during these summers that she, at least occasionally, walked or rode over the wooded hill-path to the old Benedictine Pilgrimage Church and Monastery of San Nicolò in Boschetto, three or four English miles away. These buildings are now secularized and empty, but, even so, impressive still.[47]

It is but natural to suppose that she was as yet too little at one with her true self, to be able to surmount her lot, or even seriously to attempt such a task, by escaping from the false self and from all attempts at finding happiness within the four corners of the demands of her most sensitive and absolute disposition. To learn to do things well takes time,—and even if it be but the finding out that those things to do are there, ready and requiring to be done; or the seeing that we are doing them badly. Hence above all does the learning to suffer well, the turning pain into self-expansion and[104] self-escape, as well as into fruitful action, require time, special graces, and unusual fidelity of soul. And even the noblest nature will usually begin by thinking of getting, rather than of giving; it will simply thirst to be loved, and to find its happiness in its own heart’s perfect “comprehendedness.”

Catherine tried to find relief, first in one attitude on her life’s sad couch of mental suffering, and then in another; and neither brought her any alleviation. During the first five years she had hidden herself away, and had moped in solitude; the last five, she had given herself to worldly gaieties and feminine amusements, short, however, of all grave offence against the moral law. And at the end of these experiences and experiments she, noble, deep nature that she was, found herself, of course, sadder than ever, with apparently no escape of any kind from out of the dull oppression, the living death of her existence and of herself.

V. Her Conversion, with its immediate Preliminaries and Consequences, March 1474.

1. Her prayer, March 20, 1474. Her conversion, March 22.

From after Christmas-time in 1472, Catherine’s affliction of mind had become peculiarly intense, and a profound aversion to all the things of this world made her fly anew from all human intercourse; and yet her own company had become insupportable to her, as nothing whatsoever attracted her will.

And at the end of three months, on the 20th of March 1474—it was the eve of the Feast of St. Benedict—she was praying in his little church still standing close to the sea, at the western end of Genoa, not far beyond Andrea Doria’s Palace, built so soon after her death. And in her keen distress she prayed: “St. Benedict, pray to God that He make me stay three months sick in bed.”[48]


And two days later, when Catherine was visiting her sister at her Convent, Limbania proposed to her, since she declared herself indisposed to go to confession (although the Feast of the Annunciation was at hand), at least to go and recommend herself in the Chapel to the chaplain of the Convent, who was indeed a saintly Religious. And, at the moment that she was on her knees before him, her heart was pierced by so sudden and immense a love of God, accompanied by so penetrating a sight of her miseries and sins and of His goodness, that she was near falling to the ground. And in a transport of pure and all-purifying love, she was drawn away from the miseries of the world; and, as it were beside herself, she kept crying out within herself: “No more world; no more sins!” And at that moment she felt that, had she had in her possession a thousand worlds, she would have cast them all away.[49]

2. Views and truths concerning this Experience.

One of the various writers who have successively, and in great part differently, moralized upon the chief events of her life, dwells on this great moment as achieving in her soul all the usually lengthy and successive effects of the purgative, illuminative, and unitive progression, and as, in that one instant, bringing her soul to that highest state of transformation, in which the will is wholly united to God.[50] But having regard to the fact, patent on every page of her biography and “Works,” that, for the remaining thirty-seven years of her life, her interior history represents one continuous widening and deepening and moving onwards of efforts, trials and pains, of achievements and ideals—a fact actually schematized by another writer (who, as I shall show, is the penultimate Redactor of the Life) not two pages lower down—it is clear that we must be careful to conceive this perfection as relative to her previous state or even to the final goodness of many saintly souls. We must, in a word, try to realize vividly, and constantly to recall, certain complex truths, without which the very greatness of the experience here considered will but help to check or deflect our apprehension of the spiritual life.

For one thing, the deeper and the more unique the sou[106]l’s experience, and the richer such experience is, the more entirely does all that the soul is, and ever was, wake up and fuse itself in one indivisible act, in which much of the old is newly seen to be dross and is so far forth excluded; and in which the old that is retained reappears in a fresh context, a context which itself affects and is itself affected by all the other old and new ideas and feelings. It thus clearly bears the stamp upon it of the profound difference between Time, conceived as a succession of moments of identical quantity and quality, each in juxtaposition and exterior to the other, mathematical time, such as our clocks register on the dials,—a conception really derived from space-perception and exterior, measurable things—and Duration, with its variously rapid succession of heterogeneous qualities, each affecting and colouring, each affected and coloured by, all the others, and all producing together a living harmony and organic unity, all which constitutes the essentially unpicturable experience of the living person. Such a moment is thus incapable of adequate analysis, in exact proportion as it is fully expressive of the depths of the personality and of its experience: for each element here, whilst, in its living context, an energy and a quality which at each moment modifies and is modified by all the other elements, becomes, in an intellectual analysis, when each is separated from the others, a mere dead thing and a quantity.

And secondly, such an experience is throughout as truly a work of pure grace, a gift, as it is a work of pure energy, an act. And here again, the grace and the energy, the gift and the act are not juxtaposed, but throughout they stimulate and interpenetrate each other, with the most entirely unanalyzable, unpicturable completeness. It is indeed in exact proportion to the fulness of this interstimulation and penetration, to the organic oneness of the act, that such an act is this one particular soul’s very own act and yet the living God’s own fullest gift. Grace does not lie without, but within; it does not check or limit, but constitutes the will’s autonomy.

And thirdly, it is an experience which leaves the soul different forever from what it was before; which purifies her perfectly, in and for that moment, from all her stains of actual sin committed up to that moment; and which materially strengthens her inclinations towards good and weakens her tendencies towards evil. But the soul herself[107] lives on; and she lives but in and through successive acts of all kinds. Hence it is not an act,—there is none such, here below at least,—which takes or can take the place of fresh acts to be produced again and again throughout her life, The soul has not, in any sense or any degree, been approximated to that utterly paradoxical thing, a saintly automaton. She is not raised above the limitations and imperfections, the obscurities and conflicts, the failings and sins of humanity. She could fall away and commit grave sin; she actually does commit minor sins of frailty and surprise. Her interior efforts and experiences are now but on a larger, deeper scale, and on a higher plane, and take place from a new vantage-ground, a position which has, however, itself to be continually actively defended and reinforced. Temptation, trial, sorrow, pain; hope, fear, self-hatred, love and joy, with ever-renewed and increased aspiration and effort, all variously change and deepen their combinations and qualities, outlook and ideals. But they do not for one moment cease. All things but grow in depth and significance, in variety within unity, in interiority and interpenetration.

And finally, although conversions of the apparent suddenness and profound depth and perseverance of the one here studied, are rightly taken to be very special and rare graces of God, yet it would be but misinterpreting and depreciating their true significance to make their suddenness the direct proof and measure of their own supernaturalness or the standard by which to appraise the altitude of the goodness of other lives. God is as truly the source of gradual purification as of sudden conversion, and as truly the strength which guards and moves us straight on, as that which regains and calls us back. Hence such acts as Catherine’s should not be entirely separated off from those acts of love, contrition and self-dedication which occur, as so many free graces of God in and with the free acts of man, more or less frequently in the secret lives of human beings throughout the world.

3. The Second Experience, in the Palace.

Catherine then was kneeling on, in these great moments of her true self’s self-discovery and self-determination, with her true Life now at last felt so divinely near and yet still so divinely far: she was kneeling on, oblivious of time and space, incapable of speech—throughout a deep, rich age of growth, during but some minutes of poor clock-time—whilst[108] the chaplain was called away by some little momentary matter. And when he returned, she was just able to utter: “Father, if you please, I should like to let this confession stand over to another time.” And returning home, she was so on fire and wounded with the love which God had interiorly manifested to her, that, as if beside herself, she went into the most private chamber she could find, and there gave vent to her burning tears and sighs. And, all instructed as she had suddenly become in prayer, her lips could only utter: “O Love, can it be that Thou hast called me with so much love, and revealed to me, at one view, what no tongue can describe?” And her contrition for her offences against such infinite goodness was so great, that, if she had not been specially supported, her heart would have been broken, and she would have died.[51]

And yet, though her biographer, no doubt rightly, represents her feeling and dispositions as now at their uttermost,—they may well have actually been so, at that moment for that moment,—they were nevertheless evidently capable of indefinite subsequent increase. Indeed it must have been on this same day, or on one of the next three days, that, in one of the rooms of the palace in the Via S. Agnese,—(the approximate spot is marked in the Church of St. Philip by a fine picture representing the scene, hung over the altar of one of the left-hand-side chapels),—“Our Lord, desiring to enkindle still more profoundly His love in this soul, appeared to her in spirit with His Cross upon His shoulder dripping with blood, so that the whole house seemed to be all full of rivulets of that Blood, which she saw to have been all shed because of love alone.” “And filled with disgust at herself, she exclaimed: ‘O Love, if it be necessary, I am ready to confess my sins in public.’”[52]

4. Two peculiarities of this Experience.

Here two things are remarkable. This is, to begin with, her first and last vision (visione), which I can find, in the sense of a picture produced indeed “in the spirit,” but yet[109] evidently apprehended with a sense of apparently complete passivity in the perceiving mind and of objectivity as to the perceived thing, and remembered as such throughout her life. For the frequent subsequent “sights” or picturings (viste) are avowedly only of the nature of profoundly vivid, purely mental, more or less consciously voluntary and subjective contemplations and intuitions; whilst her only other “visions,” those seen during the last stage of her last illness, seem indeed to have been of an even more sensible kind than this visione, but they were entirely fitful and left no permanent impression behind them.

And again, this is the one only picture of any, even of a voluntary, meditational kind, concerning the Passion, to be found throughout her life; all her other contemplations and impressions of whatever kind are of other subjects.

5. Her general confession.

It was after these fundamental experiences that, once more in the Chapel of the Augustinianesses, apparently four days later, on the 24th of March, “she made her general confession, with such contrition and compunction as to pierce her soul.”[53]

VI. The Two Conceptions concerning the Character and Rationale of her Penitential Period and of her whole Convert Life. The Position adopted here.

At this point of the Life two successive reporters or redactors introduce, respectively, a general reflection on the character and rationale of the period of penitence now immediately ensuing, and a scheme and forecast as to the stages in the ascensional movement of her entire convert life.

1. The older conception.

The first reporter,—evidently the same who, in connection with the Conversion scene, had described her soul as, there and then, at the culmination of holiness,—here says: “And although God, at the moment when,” four days before,[110] “He had given her that love and pain, had there and then pardoned her all her sins, consuming them in the fire of His love; yet He, wishing her to satisfy the claims of justice, led her by the way of satisfaction, in such wise as to cause this special contrition, illumination, and conversion to last about fourteen months,” and it is no doubt implied by him that frequent confession was practised throughout this time.[54]

Thus we get an impressive instance of the rich and complex experience on which the Catholic doctrine is built, as to how, on the one hand, pure and perfect love ever instantly obliterates all sin; how, on the other hand, such perfect love, in those who explicitly know and accept the Church’s claims, involves a determination to confess all such grave sins as may have been committed; and how, finally, such subsequent confession is itself operative within the soul. For as between the soul and the body, so between the Mystical and Sacramental, there is a real and operative connection, though one which, however inadequately known by us, we know to be one not of simple identity or coextension.

And the experiences and doctrines here specially considered appear to require the conception of contrition and pardon as but the necessary expression and effect of true, operative love; and to demand the conclusion that purification participates in the essentially positive nature of love, its cause. The removal of bodily impurity is a negative act, and, as such, is limited and unrepeatable; but spiritual purification would thus, as something positive, be capable of indefinite increase and repetition. And hence the deep philosophical justification of repeated contrition and confession for the same sins, even though already pardoned. We shall find that such a view is also to be found in St. Catherine’s own doctrine, though there is nothing to show that the thought of this paragraph is derived from Catherine herself. I take it to proceed from Cattaneo Marabotto.

2. The later conception.

The second writer, the penultimate Redactor of the book as we now have it, finds three successive levels in her whole life’s constant growth and upward movement, and discovers a type of each in some love-impelled figure or scene of the Bible. And so the writer gets his periods symbolized respectively by the two New Testament scenes of Christ’s feet, and the Penitent Magdalen drawn by Him to them, and of[111] Christ’s breast, and the Beloved Disciple reposing peacefully upon it; and by the Old Testament poetic picture, and its allegorical interpretation, of Christ’s (the true Solomon’s) mouth, and the Bride’s kiss. And some four years are assigned to the first period, “many” years to the second, and her last years to the last: 1478 and 1499 would be the approximate dates dividing off these periods. We shall find this scheme to proceed from Battista Vernazza.

Time-honoured though it be, this symbolism in no way fits Catherine’s case. For, excepting during the short first period, her direct and formal occupation with the Sacred Humanity is, throughout her convert life, practically confined to the Eucharistic Presence; and again, her words and contemplations are (as indeed the unhappiness of her marriage experience would lead one to expect and as the whole temper of her mind and devotion require) quite remarkably free from all affinity to the Canticle of Canticles. And yet this, in so far inappropriate, framework helps to emphasize the all-important fact of the constant growth and deepening ever at work within her life.

Indeed, the short, general characterization of each of these successive periods which follows after each symbol here, is derived from passages of the Vita which are doubtless based upon direct communication by herself. Thus the detailed sight of her own particular sins and of God’s particular graces towards herself, characteristic of the relatively short first period, is succeeded by the second, long and profoundly lonely, period of an apparent union of the divine and of the human personalities, in which all distinct perception of her own acts appears to have usually been lost,—a union which can lead her to the point of saying: “I have no longer either soul or heart of my own; but my soul and my heart are those of my Love.” Yet in her third and last period, the consciousness of her own acts and of their differentiation is described as fully reappearing within her mind. For though we are presented here with a kind of immersion in the Divinity, in which she appears so to lose herself interiorly and exteriorly as to be able to say with St. Paul: “I live no longer, but Christ lives in me”; and though we are told that she was no longer able to discern between the good and evil of her acts, by means of any direct examination of them: yet her acts are now again perceived to be her own; to be some of them good and some of them faulty; and are seen, as several and[112] as differing, by her own self, but “in God.”[55] So did the Lady of Shallot, all turned away though she was from the world of sight, see in her mirror the different figures as, good and bad, they moved on their way, more truly and clearly than she had ever seen them formerly by any direct perception.

3. Position adopted in this study concerning Catherine’s spiritual growth.

Now these periods of interior, experimental, mystical vicissitude and growth have also their corresponding variations of religious analysis and speculation, and of external actions and events; and these variations are not only the concomitants and expressions of the inner growth, but are also, in part, the subject-matter and occasion for the next stage of mystical experience. And since Catherine’s special characteristic consists precisely in the richness and variety of her life at any one moment, and in the successive, ever-accelerated enrichment which it achieves almost up to the end, any obliteration of this successive growth, or any one-sided attention to any one aspect of her life during any one of its chief periods, will readily take all life-likeness out of her portrait.

Yet to achieve anything like this comprehension is most difficult, if only because it has to be attempted with the aid of materials which, where their registration is contemporary with the events chronicled, belong, all but the legal documents, to the last fifteen years of her life; and because, even within this last period, they are rarely furnished with any reference to their exact place within that period. There is throughout the book a most natural and instructive, indeed in its way most legitimate and even necessary, insistence upon the apparently complete independence and aloofness, the transcendence of her inner life. And this insistence goes so far that a self-sufficing Eternity, a completely unchanging Here and Now, floating outside and above even the necessary and normal affections, actions, and relations of human life and fellowship, seems, especially from after her conversion till up to the beginning of her physical incapacitation,[56] to have[113] taken the place of the characteristically human struggle in and through time and space, with and through our fellow-creatures. As in Leibniz we get a divinely pre-established harmony between the dispositions and the acts of the body and those of the soul, which appear indeed as though indestructibly interrelated, but which, in reality, operate throughout without one instant’s direct interaction: so here, the external is not indeed represented as neglected by her, nor as anything but in complete harmony with her inner life, and as indeed inspired by God, yet her own mind and soul are but reluctantly permitted to appear as expressing themselves in it, as requiring and affected by it. She appears as having got outside of, and away from, all the visible and purely human, rather than deeper into and behind it; to have achieved the ignoring of it rather than its conversion and transfiguration and its appointment to its own intrinsic place and function in the full economy of the soul’s new life.

And yet all this is, even in the minds of the authors, but one aspect of this complex life, and one which, taken alone, would at once do injustice to its other aspect, the grand depth and range of its immanental quality. And even in as much as the transcendental aspect is really attributable to the predominant trend of Catherine’s own character and teaching, it in no way invalidates the fact of the actual astonishing many-sidedness and balance of her life, especially before her last few years, but will be found to proceed essentially from her rare mode of achieving this many-sidedness and balance, or, more strictly still, from her own feeling as to this mode, and her analysis and theory of it. We have no direct concern with this her reflection at present: what she actually did and directly was, is all we would wish to try and sketch just now.

VII. Catherine and the Holy Eucharist.

1. A daily Communicant from May 1474 onwards.

On the following day, then, on the Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March, 1473,[114] “her Lord gave her the desire of Holy Communion, a desire which never again failed her throughout the whole course of her remaining life. And He so disposed things that Communion was given her, without any care on her part; she was often summoned to receive it, without any asking, by priests inspired by God to give it to her.”[57]

After trying every possible interpretation of this most annoyingly obscure text by the light of three or four other passages, I have come to think it to mean that, on this Lady-Day, she, for the first time since now ten years, received Holy Communion with a keen desire for its reception; and that this desire remained from this day forward unintermittently with her, till the end of her life: but that this desire, which at first may not have been set upon daily Communion, began to be satisfied by a daily reception only some time in May 1474. It is anyhow certain that from this latter date onwards she was a daily communicant up to September 13, 1510, the day before her death.[58] The exceptions were most rare,—I take it of an average of once or twice a year,—and were always owing to some insuperable obstacle, mostly of ill-health.


2. Her practice as regards the Holy Eucharist, throughout her Convert Life.

Since Holy Communion was the great source and centre of her love and strength, and the one partially external experience and practice which was thus renewed day by day throughout her life, and in the spiritual apprehension and effect of which we cannot trace any distinct periods, I shall dwell here, once for all, upon the characteristics of this devotion of hers, which were at all special to herself.

For one thing, even her ardent love of Holy Communion did not suppress a bashful dislike of being noticed or distinguished in the matter: “At the beginning of her conversion she had at times a feeling as of envy towards Priests, because they communicated on as many days as they would, without any one wondering at it.” “Once when, for a few days, the city was under an interdict, she went every morning a mile’s distance outside of the city walls, so as to communicate; and she thought that she would not be seen by any one.”[59]

Next, there is a most characteristic eagerness for interiorization, for turning the Holy Eucharist, perceived without, into the heart’s food within; and a corresponding intensity of consciousness and tenderness at the moment of reception. “When she saw the Sacrament on the altar in the hands of the priests, she would say within herself: ‘Now swiftly, swiftly convey it to the heart, since it is the heart’s true food.’” And “one night she dreamt that she would be unable to communicate during the coming day, and waking up, she found that tears were dropping from her eyes, at which she wondered, since hers was a nature very slow to weep.” And “when at Mass, she was often so occupied with her Lord interiorly, as not to hear one word of it; but when the time for Communion arrived, at that instant she would become conscious of exterior things.” And she would say: “O Lord, it seems to me, that if I were dead, I should return to life to receive Thee; and that if an unconsecrated host were given to me, I should recognize it to be such by the mere taste alone, as one discerns water from wine.”[60]


Again, her Communion practice bears upon it the stamp of a staunch virility; of a constant emulation between her own generous turning-away from its sensible consolations and the divine action, which seems to have maintained these consolations throughout her life; and of a determination to abstain even from such deeply consoling Communions, if such abstention were the more perfect practice for her. “One day, when she had communicated, there came to her so much odour and so much sweetness, that she felt as though in Paradise. But turning at once towards her Love she said: ‘O Love, wouldest thou perchance draw me to Thee with these savours (sapori)? I desire them not, since I desire but Thee, and Thee whole and entire!’” And “one day a holy Friar,”—it was probably the Observant Franciscan, Father Angelo of Chiavasso (near Genoa), beatified later on,—“said to her: ‘You communicate every day: what kind of satisfaction do you derive from it?’ And she answered him simply, explaining to him all her desires and feelings. But he, to test the purity of her intention, said: ‘There might possibly be some imperfection in such very frequent Communion,’ and then left her. And Catherine having heard this, fearing such imperfection, at once suspended her Communions, but at the cost of great distress. And the Friar, hearing a few days later of how she cared more not to do wrong than to have all the consolation and satisfaction of Communion, sent her word by all means to return to her daily Communions; and she did so.”[61]

And finally, her Communions produced effects direct and indirect, spiritual and psychical. The indirect, psycho-physical effects being variable, and related to the varying conditions of her health, will be noted as far as possible under the different periods of her life and, collectively, in the chapter on such psycho-physical questions. The spiritual effects no doubt grew, but this growth we have no sufficient materials for pursuing in detail. Yet they have throughout this peculiarity, that, central and all-permeating as this Eucharistic influence no doubt was, yet it nowhere takes the form of any specially Eucharistic devotion or directly Eucharistic meditation or doctrine, outside of Holy Communion itself and of the immediate occupation with it. Some deep indirect effects on her general tone, imagery, and teaching will be studied in our second volume.


VIII. Catherine and Confession and Direction.

1. Catherine arouses criticism in the matter of Direction.

Now if Catherine occasioned some criticism and testing of her spirit by the (for that period) very unusual frequency of her Communions,[62] it is equally on record that she aroused some surprise and apprehension, by the absence of all Direction, during the many years of the second period of her convert life. And if, in the matter of her daily Communions, she had readily entered into the suggestion that there might be imperfection in this her dearest habit, and yet had to continue along her unusual way, so too, in this matter of Direction, she evidently was from the first ever ready to proceed in the ordinary manner, and yet found herself compelled to follow a lonely course. “If she attempted to lean upon any one (accostarsi ad alcuno), Love instantly caused her mental suffering so great that she was obliged to desist, saying, ‘O Love, I understand Thee.’ And when she was told that it would be well, and more secure, if she were to put herself under obedience to another, and whilst she was in doubt as to what to do, her Lord answered her thus within her mind: ‘Confide in Me, and doubt not!’”[63] Such suggestions will have been made and such scruples will have been suffered many a time, during the long years in which, in this matter, her way was an extraordinary one.

2. The facts concerning Catherine’s confessions. Catholic obligations.

But in this matter of Direction and Confession, the Vita, if we were to take its present constituents as of uniform value, is astonishingly vague, ambiguous, and contradictory. Let us take the facts, in the order of their certainty, moving from the quite certain to the less and less certain ones; and let us then try and appraise the upshot of the whole examination.

We are then, first, absolutely certain that Catherine[118] herself, not later than 1499,—this date shall be justified later on,—said to Don Marabotto, (and that he then and there, or shortly afterwards, wrote down,) the following words: “I have persevered for twenty-five years in the spiritual way, without the aid of any creature.” And he, in this matter which concerns his own Confessing and Directing of her during the last eleven years of her life (1499-1510), twice over solemnly reaffirms and drives home the reality of the fact thus communicated to him by herself. “She was guided and taught interiorly by her tender Love alone, without the means of any [fellow-]creature, either Religious or Secular”; “she was instructed and governed thus by God, for about twenty-five years.”[64] And conformably with this, we get the short dialogue between herself and Love, as just given, and such words as the following, which she declared that Love itself spoke to her mind,—evidently during, and probably at the beginning, of these many years: “Take from the remainder of Scripture this one word ‘Love,’ with which thou shalt ever walk straight … enlightened, without error, and (all this) without guide or means provided by any other creature.”[65]

In the next place, it is equally certain that, with all her biographers down to this day (e.g. Monseigneur Fliche, pp. 350, 351), her words must be understood to exclude at least all Direction from those years. And it is, moreover, practically certain that at least the second Redactor (R. 2) of the Vita understood her words to apply to Confession also. For whereas, in the older tripartite scheme of R. 1, the four years of Penance of her first period were filled by her labours for “satisfying her conscience by means of contrition, confession, and satisfaction,” R. 2 breaks up those four years into two periods,—the first, of “a little over a year”; and the second, of (no doubt) three years,—and does so with a view to thus making room for the “about twenty-five years” of Catherine’s affirmation. Now whereas R. 2 in his first period talks thus of Confession; in his second one, he talks twice of Contrition, and twice of Sorrow, but nowhere of Confession; and again, whereas in his third (R. 1’s second) period “many” (no doubt twenty-one) years, there is still no reference to Confession, indeed here not even to Sin or Contrition in general; in the fourth (R. 1’s third) period (of eleven years), when she was being regularly confessed and directed by[119] Marabotto, she, it is true, “was incapable of recognizing, by direct examination, the nature of her acts, whether they were good or bad,” but still she was able to see, and actually “saw all things,” hence also these acts and their difference, “in God.”[66]

Thirdly, it is certain that some reasonable doubt can be entertained as to whether Catherine’s words, solemnly emphatic though they are, were not understood too literally by Marabotto and the second Redactor. Nothing is, indeed, more obvious and striking throughout all the authentic memorials of her, than the delightfully simple, grandly fearless veracity of her mind. She never speaks but according to the fulness of her conviction: like with all souls most near unto the childlike Master, Christ, it can be said of her that “one never knows what she is going to say next.” And we shall find her insight into herself at any given moment, even with regard to such partly medical matters as her psycho-physical condition, to be quite astonishing in its depth and delicacy. Yet the fact remains, that she was as truly a person of intense and swiftly changing feelings, exaltations, and depressions, as she was one of a rich balanced doctrine and of a quite heroic objectivity and healthy spiritual utilization of all such intensities. This very heroism and objectivity of hers, so constant and watchful in all her practical decisions and general doctrinal statements, no doubt helped to make her feel both the need and the licitness of giving full and truthful utterance also to the intense and swiftly passing feelings of her heart.

One such utterance is specially to the point. She had already been for eleven years the much-helped penitent of that utterly devoted priest-friend Don Marabotto, when, in January 1510, he overheard her (the extant report of the scene is certainly his own and contemporary with the event) saying to God, shut up alone, as she thought, in one of her rooms: “There is no creature that understands me. I find myself alone, unknown, poor, naked, a stranger and different from all the world.” Yet this does not prevent her finding comfort and, indirectly, even physical improvement, in and from Marabotto’s sympathy and words, when these are offered to her not many hours later on.[67] The abnormally rapid and complete change of feeling depicted here, no doubt occurred[120] during the last eight months of her life, long after her health had begun to break up permanently; and cannot directly illustrate her frame of mind during the years 1474-1499, when she was in health and relatively strong. Still, she was clearly ever of a high-strung, intense temperament; and her health was already seriously impaired when, in 1499, she spoke the words concerning the utter loneliness of that whole quarter of a century. And if the emphatic words, spoken to God Himself in 1510, were compatible with confession, and, indeed, a certain kind of continuous direction, at the very time and during eleven years before they were spoken: her words uttered in 1499 to Marabotto, will have been compatible with at least some confession during a period of years of which the first lay almost a whole generation behind her. And we shall find at least two other cases in which Marabotto appears, on Catherine’s own authority, as having clearly misunderstood the nature of some phenomena connected with herself.[68]

Yet for all this, the account which we shall have to give later on of the characteristics of her confessions to Marabotto,—an account directly derived from himself,—makes it practically impossible to assume that even simple confession was practised, at all or otherwise than quite exceptionally, during those many years.

Now we have, as a fourth point, to remember that although the Fourth Council of the Lateran, in the year 1215, had decreed that “All the Faithful of either sex, after coming to years of discretion, are bound to confess all their sins at least once a year”:[69] yet already St. Thomas Aquinas had, in his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, composed in 1252-1257, taught that, since the divine institution and obligation extends, strictly speaking, only to the confession of mortal sins, “he that has not committed any mortal sins is not bound to confess venial sins, but it is sufficient for the fulfilling of the Church’s precept, for him to present himself to the priest, and to declare himself free from the consciousness of mortal sin.”[70] And nothing has changed, as to the nature and extent of this obligation, since Catherine’s time. The Council of Trent, the decrees of which were confirmed by Pope Pius IV in 1564, more than half-a-century after her death, carefully explains that “all the sins” of the decree of[121] 1215 means all “mortal sins”; and further declares that “the Church did not, by the Lateran Council, decree that the faithful should confess,—a thing she knew to be instituted and necessary by divine right,” but had simply determined the circumstances and conditions under which this obligatory confession was to take place.[71] And Father Antonio Ballerini, S.J. (d. 1881), gives us the conclusions, identical with that of St. Thomas, of those great authorities Francis Suarez (d. 1617), Cardinal John de Lugo (d. 1660), and Hermann Busenbaum (d. 1668),—all three, Jesuits like himself,—and himself endorses their decision. Suarez indeed declares this view to be the common opinion of Theologians.[72]

3. Probable course of Catherine’s confession-practice.

With these four points before us, let us attempt to reconstruct some outline of what really happened in her own case, and try and show what constituted the specifically Catholic quality of this her practice, so unusual in the middle and later ages of the Church. We shall, then, do wisely, I think, by considering that the “twenty-five years,” alleged by her own self, were, as a strict matter of fact, not more than twenty-one;[73] that during the four first convert years that preceded this middle period, just as during the last eleven which[122] succeeded it, she had recourse to confession with the frequency considered normal in and for these times, in the case of a daily communicant living in the world; but that, during the intervening period, she was allowed to substitute that simple occasional, perhaps only annual, presentation of herself and declaration to the priest in the place of confession proper, which we have seen to be considered, in a case of such a purity of soul as hers, as sufficient for fulfilling the Church’s precept, by a practical consensus of all the great casuist authorities. And thus we have here again a memorable, and this time a long-persisting, instance of how the intrinsic and operative connection between the Individual and the Social, the Mystical and the Institutional elements of Religion is not a simple identity or coextension,—a point which we already found exemplified during the first hours of her convert life.

And the Catholic spirit in this her present course will consist in her full observance of all to which the Church strictly obliges; in her readiness at all times to walk in the ordinary way, and in her repeated attempts, even during this second period, to do so; in her actually and fervently following the ordinary course whenever she could, i.e. in the first and last period; and finally in her ever faithfully obeying the promptings of God’s Spirit which, by various converging spiritual peculiarities, circumstances and means, showed, with practical plainness, the kind and degree of extraordinary interior acts and habits which were to be, in large part, her form of the “Mind of the Church.” For it is indeed certain that the special characteristic of the Catholic mind is not, necessarily, universally and finally, the conception and practice of sanctity under the precise form of the devotional spirit and habits special to the particular part or period of the Church in which that individual Catholic’s lot may be cast. What is thus characteristic, is the continuous and sensitive conviction that there is something far-reaching and important beyond the Church’s bare precepts, for every soul that aims at sanctity, to find out and to do; that this something (sc. the Church’s mind) is, always and for all, presumably, the most fervent form and degree of the devotional temper and habits of the Church, as practised in that time and country; and that it is for God Himself, if He so pleases, to indicate to the soul that He now wants its fervour to consist in an observance of the Church’s precepts and spirit under a form and with an application partially different from the most fervent practice of the[123] ordinary devotions of that time and place, though this new observance will be no less costing or heroically self-renouncing than the other. And this He does usually by slow, often simply cumulative and indirect, but always solid, painful, and practically unmistakable, because unsought, means and experiences,—all these attained to well within the Church. For the Church’s life and spirit, which is but the extension of the spirit of Christ Himself, is, like all that truly lives at all, not a sheer singleness, but has a mysterious unity in and by means of endless variety. Even at any one moment that spirit expresses itself in numerous variations, by means of various races, rites, orders, schools, and individuals. And yet not the sum-total of all these simultaneously present variations is ever as rich as is the sum-total of that spirit’s successive manifestations in the past. Nor once more can this latter sum be taken as anticipating all the developments and adaptations which that ever-living spirit will first occasion and then sanction in His special organ, the Church. Catherine’s particular, divinely impelled substitute for the ordinary devotional practice shall be described later on.

IX. Catherine and Indulgences.

A further peculiarity, somewhat analogous to the one just examined, seems to have characterized her devotional practice—in this case, throughout her convert life. It had therefore, perhaps, best be described in this place.

1. The assertions of the “Vita.”

Three items of information are furnished by the Vita, on one and the same half-page.

(1) “She had such a hatred of self,” says the Vita, “that she did not hesitate to pronounce this sentence: ‘I would not have grace and mercy, but justice and vengeance shown to the malefactor.…’”

(2)[124] “For this reason it seemed that she did not even care to gain the Plenary Indulgences. Not as though she did not hold them in great reverence and devotion, and did not consider them to be most useful and of great value. But she would have wished that her own self-seeking part (la sua propria parte) should rather be chastized and punished as it deserved, than to see it pardoned (assoluta), and, by means of such satisfaction, liberated in the sight of God.”

(3) “She saw the Offended One to be supremely good, and the offender quite the opposite. And hence she could not bear to see any part of herself which was not subjected to the divine justice, with a view to its being thoroughly chastized. And hence, so as not to give this part any hope of being liberated from the pains due to it, she abstained from the Plenary Indulgences and also from recommending herself to the intercessions of others, so as ever to be subject to every punishment and condemned as she deserved.”[74]

2. Three points to be noted here.

Here I would note three things.

For one thing, there can be no serious doubt as to the authenticity of the saying that opens out this group of communications and as to the substantial accuracy of the two parallel, and (I think) mutually independent, reports as to her practice: since the saying belongs to the class of short declarations given in oratio directa, which we shall find to be remarkably reliable throughout the Vita; and the reports testify to something so unusual, so little sympathetic to the hagiographical mind, so much in keeping with the remainder of her doctrine and practice, that we cannot believe them misinformed. The author of the Dialogo evidently fully accepted these three passages, when, in about 1549, she paraphrases them thus: “She therefore made no account of her sins, with respect to their punishment, but only because she had acted against that Immense Goodness”; “She found herself to be her who alone had committed all the evil, and alone she wanted to make satisfaction, as far as ever she could, without the help of any other person.”[75]

For another thing, we have absolutely final contemporary documentary evidence of the importance attached by herself both to Indulgences, and the gaining of them (at least by[125] other people), and to Masses and prayers for the Dead, inclusive of herself when she should be gone. For as to Indulgences, we have entries in the Cartulary of the Hospital (under the dates of March 11, April 10, May 29, and August 23, 1510) of various considerable sums, amounting in all to over £300, paid by the Hospital, at the first date, for Catherine’s nephew Francesco, at all the other dates for herself, for the withdrawal of a suspension of the Indulgences attached to the Hospital Church, and for the transference, in that year, of the day appointed for their acquisition. Both these matters were carried out in Rome by means of Catherine’s second nephew, Cardinal Giovanni Fiesco. This, it is true, is evidence that only covers the last six months of her life.

But as to Masses and Prayers for her own soul after death, we have (1) her second Will, of May 19, 1498, where she leaves one share in the Bank of St. George (£100) to the Observant Franciscans of the Hospital Church, “who shall be bound to celebrate Masses and Divine Offices for the soul of Testatrix”; (2) her Codicil, of January 5, 1503, where she leaves (in addition) £3 apiece to two Monasteries “for the celebration of Masses for her own soul”; (3) her third Will, of May 18, 1506, which confirms all this; and (4) her last Will, of March 18, 1509, where she leaves £3 each to three Monasteries, which are each to “celebrate thirty Masses for her soul,” £3 to a fourth Monastery for Prayers for her soul, and £25 to the Franciscans of the Hospital Church for the celebration of Masses to the same effect.[76]

The reader will at once perceive that these facts are fully compatible with the attitude so emphatically ascribed to her in the Vita, only if we take these latter statements as expressive of certain intense, emotional moods; or of some relatively short penitential period; or of what she did and felt with regard to herself alone and for whilst she was to live here below, not of what others should do for themselves at all times and for herself when she was gone.

And finally, we know exactly how and why the doctrine and practice described in those passages in the Vita were accepted by the Congregation of Rites, as forming no obstacle to her canonization. Pope Benedict XIV, in his[126] great classical work on Beatification and Canonization, says, “After I had ceased to hold the office of Promoter of the Faith,” (the date will have been between 1728 and 1733,) “I know that a controversy arose as to the doctrine of a certain Beata, with regard to the truth of which it was possible to have different opinions.” And after giving this Beata’s doctrine and practice as these are presented by Catherine’s Vita, and citing the arguments used against their toleration, he proceeds: “But the Postulators answered (1) that this Beata had not omitted to gain Plenary Indulgences from any contempt for them, since her veneration for them was demonstrated by most unambiguous documents” (no doubt Cardinal Fiesco’s action, in her name and at her expense, in Rome in 1510, is meant); “(2) that it is the doctrine of very many theologians, that those do not sin, who do not labour to gain Indulgences because they desire to make satisfaction in their own persons in this world or to suffer in the next; (3) that we should not confound safety with perfection: it appears indeed to be safer to atone for one’s fault both by one’s own good works and by Indulgences; but not more perfect, supposing that a man abstains from Indulgences because his love of God and his detestation of having offended Him are so great that he desires to make satisfaction to Him, by bearing the whole of the merited punishment; and (4) that examples are not wanting of perfect souls, that have, for a while, desired to bear, even for the sins of others, the pains of Hell itself, although without falling away from the friendship and grace of God. And hence the Congregation of Sacred Rites considered that this doctrine did not militate against the holiness of the said Beata or against the approbation of her virtues as heroic.”[77]

X. Peculiarities concerning the Invocation of Saints and Intercessory Prayer.

And a third and last peculiarity is particularly instructive as showing how entirely an unusual, at first sight quietistic, practice is not restricted, in her case, to specifically Catholic habits.


1. The facts.

This peculiarity has already appeared in part in the second of the two accounts as to her attitude towards Indulgences. “She abstained from recommending herself to the intercession of others.” And this is borne out, but (as we shall find) with certain unforeseeable restrictions, by the rest of the Vita. As regards even the Saints, one only invocation of any one of them is on record,—that of St. Benedict in 1474, already given.

And if she did not ask others for prayers for herself in her own lifetime, her own prayers for others were evidently rare, were apparently always concerned with their spiritual welfare, and were generally produced only under some special interior impulsion. Hence when asked, in 1496 or later, by Vernazza, in the name of several of her spiritual children, to pray that God might grant them “some little drops of His Love,” she answers that “for these I cannot ask anything from this tender Love; I can but present them in His presence.” This is, no doubt, because she sees them to be already full of the love of God. Whereas in 1495 the poor working man, Marco del Sale, is dying of a cancer in the face, and is in a state of wild impatience: so she prays most fervently for him. It is true that the Vita adds that she did so, “having had an interior movement to this effect. For she never could turn to pray for a particular object, unless she had first felt herself called interiorly by her Love.” Still, this did not prevent her, in 1497, from praying most fervently for patience for her husband, (who was dying from a painful complaint,) simply “because she feared that he might lose his soul,” and without any other more peculiar incentive than this.[78]

2. The rich variety of her life.

Evidently here again, as with the Confessions and Indulgences, her life and practice were indefinitely varied and spontaneous, and incomparably richer than the preconceptions and logic of at least some of her biographers will admit, or indeed than many of her own fervent sayings, so vividly expressive of certain moments or sides of her career or character, suggest or even seem to leave possible. But the underlying meaning and ultimate harmonization of these apparent inconsistencies between her doctrine and her practice, we can only gradually hope to find.



Let us now attempt, as far as the often scanty and obscure evidence permits, to give, in the following two chapters, some general account of the changes and growth observable in her external surroundings, her human intercourse and social occupation, her physical health and psychical mood, and above all of those inner experiences and spiritual apprehensions of hers which dominated all the rest, during each of the three main periods of her convert life. This general account will, I trust, suggest the main points for our later investigations, and will show at once how largely artificial, though necessary, all such dividing into periods must be, in the case of so deeply unified and diversified an inner life as Catherine’s.

I. First Period of Catherine’s Convert Life: Giuliano’s Bankruptcy and Conversion; their Work among the Poor, March 1473 to May 1477.

1. Giuliano’s affairs. Catherine’s attitude.

The first six months of her first period (this latter we take to have extended from March 1473 to May 1477) were still spent in Giuliano’s Palace of the Via Agnese and in his country mansion at Prà.[79] But all was now swiftly changing,[129] or already greatly changed, both around her and within. Anxiety, hope, grief, consolation—inasmuch as such feelings could still for her cluster around events external to her deepest spiritual life, and could make themselves at all separately felt during this period of profound absorption in her new large life of love and penance—must all have centred in her husband. For Giuliano had by now got his affairs into such disorder as to be unable to keep up his great social position; and by the autumn of 1473 he had sold his mansion at Prà, and had vacated and let his palace in Genoa itself.[80] He was also by now a very sincere convert, in his own manner and degree; and it was no doubt now that he told Catherine, although she can hardly have failed to know already, of the existence of a poor little girl whom, with an apparently ominous indication of weak indulgence on the part of his widowed mother, he had called Tobia.

We shall be able to prove Catherine’s grand magnanimity and true, cordial forgiveness—directly, no doubt only for and at a later period; but the documents will show that she knew all the decisive circumstances long before, and there is no room for doubt that her dispositions had changed or grown as little as had her knowledge.

2. Life in the little house outside the Hospital.

Catherine and Giuliano had now, in the autumn of 1473, moved into a humble little house, in the midst of artisans, mostly dyers, and of the poor of various sorts, close to the Hospital of the Pammatone, even then already a vast Institution. This dwelling is probably identical, as to the site, with the house still standing at the junction of the Via S. Giuseppe with the Via Balilla, and which bears on its front a picture of Saints Catherine Adorna and Camillus of Lellis[81] at the feet of the Madonna. Since the income remaining to them still amounted, up to Giuliano’s death in 1497, to the equivalent of some £1,200 a year,[82] this self-abnegation and[130] humble identification with the lives of the toiling, nameless poor, must have been an act of deliberate choice, and not one of any degree of necessity. It was never suspended or revoked by either of them.

They now agreed together to a life of perpetual continence; and Giuliano became a Tertiary of the Order of St. Francis,[83] amongst those attached to the Hospital-Church of the Santissima Annunciata in Portoria, itself served by Observant Franciscans. Their only little servant-maid, Benedetta Lombarda, was also a Franciscan Tertiary. But Catherine herself now shows, in this matter of the Religious State, an interesting clearing-up of her own special way and form of sanctity. We saw how much the fervent but inexperienced girl of sixteen had been moved and had longed to be an Augustinian nun; and now the sadly experienced wife of twenty-six, even in the midst of her first convert days, and though surrounded at home, in Church, and in the Hospital, by Religious of the popular and expansive type presented by the Franciscans, (a type which her own deep sympathy with, indeed penetration by, the teaching of the great Franciscan Mystic Jacopone da Todi, will show to have been closely akin to her own,) manifests no thought of becoming a Religious, even in the slight degree represented by the Third Order. And up to her death, thirty-seven years later, she never wavers on this point. A highly characteristic scene and declaration illustrative of this attitude of hers will be given further on.

The Hospital of Pammatone had been founded by Bartolommeo Bosco, one of those large-hearted merchant princes of whom Genoa has had not a few, in 1424, in the street of that name; and only quite recently, in 1472, the Friars of the adjoining Church of the Annunciata had agreed to the incorporation of their own infirmary for sick poor with Bosco’s larger institution. Hence Catherine and Giuliano found 130 sick-beds always occupied by patients, and over 100 foundling girls, who were being trained as silk-workers, all ready to their hands and service.[84] Catherine was besides gradually introduced to the poor of the district, by the Donne della Misericordia—ladies devoted to such works of mercy—and betook herself to her tasks with characteristic directness and thoroughness.[85] She must first, and once for[131] all, completely master all squeamishness in this her lowly work. So she betook herself to cleansing their houses from the most disgusting filth; and she would take home with her the garments of the poor, covered with dirt and vermin, and, having cleansed them thoroughly, would herself return them to their owners. And yet nothing unclean was ever found upon herself. She also tended the sick in the Hospital and in their homes, with the most fervent affection, speaking to them of spiritual things and ministering to their bodily wants, and never avoiding any form of disease, however terrible.[86]

II. Catherine and Tommasa Fiesca: their Difference of Character and attrait. Peculiarity of Catherine’s Penitence and Health during this time.

1. Catherine’s penances.

And throughout this first period of four years, her penances were great. She wore a hair-shirt; she never touched either flesh-meat or fruit, whether fresh or dried; she lay at night on thorns. And by nature courteous and affable, she would do great violence to herself by conversing as little as possible with her relations when they visited her, and, as to anything further, paying heed neither to herself nor to them; and she acted thus for the purpose of self-conquest; and if any one was surprised at it, she took no notice.[87]

2. Catherine and Tommasina.

But one visitor must, even during this period, have been treated by her with much of her natural spontaneity and ardent expansiveness. She was a cousin of her own age, a Fiesca and a married woman like herself; like herself, too, in the wish, just now awakened, to belong entirely to God, and in her ultimate complete conversion and ardent love of God. We can attempt to describe her here, as throwing further light upon Catherine’s idiosyncrasies, at this period in particular.

Tommasina was different from Catherine in the slow, tentative character of her first turning to God; and different, too, in the eventual form of her life; for, when later on a widow, she became first, in 1490, an Augustinian Canoness[132] at Santa Maria delle Grazie; and then, in 1497, a Dominican Nun at the Monastero Nuovo di San Domenico. This latter convent she had been given to reform and became its Prioress. In both houses she was known as Suor Tommasina (Fieschi).[88] She was different again in that she there spent some of her time in painting many a religious picture, chiefly of the Pietà, and a highly symbolical composition, illustrative of the moment of Consecration at Mass.[89] She executed also in exquisitely fine needlework a piece which represented, above, God the Father surrounded by many Angels, and, below, Christ with other figures of Saints. Finally she occupied herself in writing and produced in original composition a treatise on the Apocalypse, and another on Denys the Areopagite.

And the future Suor Tommasa showed now some of that precious gift of humour, denied to her otherwise greater cousin. For, no doubt with a bright twinkle in her eyes at the sight of Catherine’s characteristic vehemence of onslaught, Tommasa would declare that Catherine was pushing her and giving her no quarter; and that it would be a great humiliation for herself if, after all said and done, she were to turn back. But any such feeling of even the possibility of such a relapse, was amazing to Catherine, and she said: “If I were to turn back, I would wish that my eyes might be put out, and that I should be treated with every other kind of indignity.”[90]

3. Peculiarity of Catherine’s penitence.

But such intercourse as this must, during this first period, have been the exception. For her dominant, closely interrelated characteristics were now a continuous striving to do things contrary to her natural bias and an alert looking to do the will of others rather than her own. She moved about[133] with her eyes bent upon the ground. Six hours a day were spent in prayer, and this although—perhaps just now in part because—the body greatly felt the strain: the strongly willing spirit had dominated the weak flesh. Indeed, during this time she was so full of interior feeling and so occupied within herself, that she was unable to speak, except in a tone so low as to be barely audible; she seemed dead to all exterior things.[91]

And these external circumstances and practices are all only the setting, material, occasion and expression of this her first period’s actively penitential spirit, when she was persistently pursued by the detailed sight of her own particular inclinations, her own particular sins against God, and God’s particular graces towards her own self. Her very acts of charity and of friendliness, her very prayers, get all restricted or prolonged, willed or suffered, as, at least in part, but so many occasions for a love-impelled, yet still reflective self-mastery and mortification. And it was no doubt during this time that, when present one day at a sermon in which the conversion of the Magdalen was recounted, her heart seemed to whisper to her: “Indeed I understand,” so similar did her own conversion appear to her to that of the Magdalen.[92]

4. Her physical health.

As to her physical health, the fire which she felt in her heart seemed to dry up and burn her interiorly. And so great a physical hunger would possess her, that she appeared insatiable; and so quickly did she digest her food, that it looked as if she could have consumed iron. Yet she had no inclination to other than ordinary food, and did not fail to keep all the ordinary fasts and abstinences.[93]

III. Change in the Temper of Catherine’s Penitence, from May 1474 onwards.

Time wears on, and Catherine is still in the same house, and with the same health, and with the same companions and occupations, penances and prayers. But the interior dispositions and emotional promptings, and the mental apprehension of them all, are gradually changing and are growing[134] wider and freer and less particularized. “She now began to experience a more affective way, so that she was often as though beside herself; and” though still “moved by a great interior thirst after self-hatred, and by a penetrating contrition, she would often lie prostrate on the ground”; she would do so, “hardly knowing what she was doing, yet somehow gaining thus some relief for her heart,” overflowing as it was with a boundless, profound, but now more and more general, sorrow and tender love.[94] The note of a spontaneous, expansive, instinctive love is now growing in predominance in her prayer and human intercourse; and her very penances, though still performed, are now often practised from a general unreflective instinct of love-impelled self-hatred, without any conscious application to any particular inclinations or sins.

For as to her intercourse with others, she will probably already now have practised many an act of that beautiful and characteristic, impulsive, expansive tenderness, of which we shall have a good many examples from the end of her second period. And as to the character of her mortifications, we hear the following: “Whilst engaged on such great and numerous mortifications of all her senses, she was sometimes asked, ‘Why are you doing this (particular) thing?’ And she would answer, ‘I do not know, except that I feel myself interiorly drawn to do so, without any opposition from within. And I think that this is the will of God; but it is not His will, that I should propose to myself any (particular) object in so doing.’”[95] I take it that, with this growing intermittence in the sight of her particular sins, her Confessions, though still[135] practised, will have become less frequent, and her Holy Communions more so.

IV. Catherine’s Great Fasts.

1. The assertions of the “Vita.”

And a little later on, again on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25, 1476),[96] another change took place, a change primarily concerned with her health, but one which brought out also the deep spirituality of her religion. On this day she experienced one of those interior locutions, which are so well authenticated in the lives of so many interior souls; and “her Love said that He wanted her to keep the Forty Days, in His company in the Desert. And then she began to be unable to eat till Easter; on the three Easter Days she was able to eat; and after these she again did not eat, till she had fulfilled as many days as are to be found in Lent.”[97] Similarly with regard to Advent. “Up to Martinmas” (November 12) “she would eat like all the world; and then her fast would begin, and would continue up to Christmas-Day.” Her subsequent Lenten fasts are described as beginning with Quinquagesima Monday and ending on Easter Sunday morning.[98]

2. Substantial accuracy of these accounts. Three facts to be remembered.

I take it that there can be no reasonable doubt as to the substantial accuracy of this account. But the following three facts must be borne in mind as regards the physical aspect of the matter.

The fast, for one thing, is not an absolute one. The account itself declares that she now and then drank a tumblerful of water, vinegar, and pounded rock-salt.[99] And to this must be added both the daily reception of wine—I[136] suppose as much as a wineglassful—which was, according to a Genoese custom of that time, received by her, as a kind of ablution, immediately after her Communion;[100] and such slight amount of solid food as, when in company, she would force herself to take and would sometimes, though rarely, manage to retain.[101]

Again, the fast varies partly, in different years, in the date of its inception; and partly it does not synchronize with the beginning of the ecclesiastical fast. In the first year her Lenten fast begins on Lady-Day, in the following years on Quinquagesima Sunday; her Advent fast begins throughout on Martinmas, November 12.

And finally, the number of such fasts cannot be more than twenty-three Lents and twenty-two Advents. The MS. of 1547 has preserved the right tradition of a difference in the numbers of the Lenten and Advent fasts, but has raised the number of the former to a round, symmetrical one. It gives twenty-five Lents and twenty-two Advents. The printed Vita of 1551 levels the numbers respectively down and up to twenty-three Lents and as many Advents.[102] Some further minor physical points will be considered in a later chapter.

3. Effect of these Fasts, and her attitude towards them.

But two other matters are here of direct spiritual interest: the effect of these fasts on her spiritual efficiency, and her own two-fold attitude towards them. For we are told, again I think quite authentically, that during these fasts she was more active in good works, and felt more bright and strong in health, than usual;[103] answering thus to one of the tests put forward by Pope Benedict XIV, for discriminating supernatural, spiritually valuable fasts from simply natural ones. But with him we can find our surest tests in what is altogether[137] beyond the range of the physical and psychical: in her own moral estimate of all these matters. For one thing, there appears here again that noble shrinking from any singularity of this kind within herself, and from all notice on the part of others. “This inability to eat gave her many a scruple at first, ignorant as she was as to its cause, and ever suspecting some delusion; and she would force herself to eat, considering that nature required it. And though this invariably produced vomiting, yet she would make the attempt again and again.” “She would go to table with the others, and would force herself to eat and drink a little, so as to escape notice and esteem as much as possible.”[104] And again here, as in all matters visible and tangible, she shows an impressive loneliness in the midst of her more carnal-minded disciples. “She would say within herself, in astonishment” at their stopping to wonder at things so much on the surface: “If you but knew another thing, which I feel within myself!” And she would declare: “If we would rightly estimate the operations of God, we should wonder more at interior than at exterior things. This incapacity to eat is indeed an operation of God, but one in which my will has no part; hence I cannot glory in it. Nor is there cause for our wondering at it, since for God this is as though a mere nothing.”[105]

4. The fasts form no part of her penitence.

These fasts, although beginning within her first period are not characteristic of it; and her biographers rightly put them into a chapter distinct from her penances, properly speaking. These penances will have continued alongside of, and in between, these fasts for about a year after the beginning of the latter. And then at last, at the end of this first period of four years, “all thought of such (active) mortifications was, in an instant, taken from her mind in such guise that, even had she wished to carry out such mortifications, she would have been unable.” For “the sight of her sins was now taken from her mind, so that she henceforth did not catch a glimpse of them,—as though they had all been cast into the depths of the sea.”[106]


V. Second, Central Period of Catherine’s Convert Life, 1477-1499: its Special Spiritual Features.

We now come to the second, longest, and central period of her life, 1477-1499. But though at first sight Chapters VI to XLII, and XLV of the Vita would seem exclusively to treat of these twenty-two years, examination proves this to be far from the case. If little or nothing from the first period is to be found there, very much from the third is embedded in those pages. And this scantiness of information springs from the simple fact that, during these twenty-two years, her inner life is led by herself alone, without any direct human aid of companionship; and her sufficient health, and the correspondingly large amount of external activity among the sick and poor, leave her but little or no time for those conferences and discourses amongst friends, of which her last period is full. This dearth of evidence is all the more to be regretted, since these central years represent the culmination of her balance and many-sided power.

1. Interior change.

For the first two years of this time she and Giuliano continued to live in their small house of the Portoria quarter, very busy, both of them, amongst the sick and poor, as well in the houses round about as in the Hospital. Indeed, externally, little or no change can have been apparent. It was the interior change, the moving away from the actively and directly penitential state into one of expansive love and joy, which alone, as yet, marked a new period.

2. The Three Rules of Love. The Divine method of the soul’s purification.

Some time during these new beginnings it must have been that “her Love once said within her mind: ‘Observe, little daughter, these three rules. Never say “I will,” or “I will not.” Never say “mine,” but ever say “our.” Never excuse thyself, but be ever ready to accuse thyself.’” And another time He said:[139] “When thou sayest the ‘Our Father,’ take for thy foundation ‘Thy Will be done.’ In the Hail Mary, take ‘Jesus.’ In Holy Scripture take ‘Love,’ with which thou wilt ever go straightly, exactly, lightly, attentively, swiftly, enlightenedly, without error, without guide, and without the means of other creatures, since Love suffices unto itself to do all things without fear or weariness, so that martyrdom itself appears unto it a joy.”[107]

But this her love, just because it is so real and from God, appears indeed to fill her at any given moment, yet it grows and shows her, at each fresh stage, both its own incompleteness and her own imperfection, in her and its former stages. “At any one moment the love of that moment seemed to me to have attained to its greatest possible perfection. But then, in the course of time, my spiritual sight having become clearer, I saw that it had had many imperfections.” “Day by day I perceive that motes have been removed, which this Pure Love casts out and eliminates. This work is done by God, and man is not aware of it at the time, and cannot then see these imperfections; indeed God continuously allows man to see his (momentary) operation as though it were without imperfection, whilst all the time He, before Whom the heavens are not pure, is not ceasing from removing imperfections from his soul.”[108]

As ever throughout her life so now also, consolations are not the aim and end, but only the actual effects of her devotedness, and the ever fresh incentives to increased disinterestedness and self-surrender. And, with regard to these consolations, she again strove to escape all notice. “She would at times have her mind so full of divine love, as to be all but incapable of speaking; and would be in so great a transport of feeling as to be obliged to hide herself so as not to be seen. She would lose the use of her senses and remain like one dead; and, to escape the occurrence of such things, she would force herself to remain in company as much as possible. And she would say to her Lord: ‘I do not want that which proceedeth from Thee, but I want Thee alone, O tender Love.’ But just because her love was so sincere and she fled from consolations, her Lord gave her of them all the more.”[109]

3. Her Ecstasies.

If on one of the many occasions when she had hidden herself away in some secret spot, she was ever discovered by any one, they would find her walking up and down, and seeming as though she would wish to do so without end; or they would come upon her with her face in her hands, prostrate on the ground, entranced, and with feelings beyond description or conception.[140] “These ecstasies would almost always last three or four hours; and if, on coming to herself, she spoke of the wonders she had seen, there was no one to understand her, and so she kept silence.” “And if called during one of these trances, she would not hear, even though they did so loudly.”[110]

This inattention would, however, occur only in case the call was simply one of curiosity. For on other occasions “she would remain as though dead for six hours; but on being called to the doing of any duty, however trifling it might seem, she would instantly arise and respond and go about the doing of this her obligation. And she would thus leave all, without any kind of trouble, according to her wont of flying from self-will as though it were the devil. And coming thus forth from her hiding-place she would have her face flushed, so as to look like a cherub, and to seem to have upon her lips the ‘who then shall separate me from the love of Christ?’ of the glorious Apostle.” And “on thus arising from those trances, she seemed to feel stronger both in body and in soul,”[111] as in the case of the fasting.

Even in the midst of her work absorptions would occur like unto these in all but their length of duration: “At times her hands would sink, unable to go on, and weeping she would say, ‘O my Love, I can no more’; and would thus sit for a while with her senses alienated, as though she had been dead. And this would occur oftener at one time than at another, according to the varying fulness of experience present in that purified mind.”[112]

4. Pure Love, independent of any particular state or form of life.

And she was full of the conviction, and cared much for the formal acknowledgment on the part of others, that the possession and the increase of the most perfect love is independent of any particular state or form of life, and is directly dependent upon two things only, the grace of God and the generosity of the human will.[141] “One day a Friar and Preacher,[113] perhaps to test her or because of some mistaken notion, told her that he himself was better fitted for loving than she, because he having entered Religion and renounced all things both within and without, and she being married to the world as he was to Religion, he found himself more free to love God, and more acted upon by Him. And the Friar went on, and alleged many other reasons. But when had spoken much and long, an ardent flame of pure love seized upon Catherine, and she sprang to her feet with such fervour as to appear beside herself, and she said: ‘If I thought that your habit had the power of gaining me one single additional spark of love, I should without fail take it from you by force, if I were not allowed to have it otherwise. That you should merit more than myself, is a matter that I concede and do not seek, I leave it in your hands; but that I cannot love Him as much as you, is a thing that you will never by any means be able to make me understand.’ And she said this with such force and fervour, that all her hair came undone, and, falling down, was scattered upon her shoulders. And yet all the while this her vehement bearing was full of grace and dignity.—And when back at home, and alone with her Lord, she exclaimed: ‘O Love, who shall impede me from loving Thee? Though I were, not only in the world as I am, but in a camp of soldiers, I could not be impeded from loving Thee.’”[114]

There is probably no scene recorded for us, so completely characteristic of Catherine at her deepest: the breadth and the fulness, the self-oblivion and the dignity, the claimlessness and the spiritual power—all are there.

VI. Catherine and Giuliano move into the Hospital in 1479, never again to quit it. She is Matron from 1490 to 1495.

The special character, both in form and content, of Catherine’s spiritual life and doctrine will occupy us in[142] Chapter VI. Here we have as yet specially to busy ourselves with its external and social occasions and effects. And these effects were both large and constant; indeed they were on the increase up to 1497, two years before this second period comes to a close.

1. Catherine and Giuliano occupy two small rooms in the Hospital.

For in 1479 the couple shift their quarters from outside the Hospital to within that great building, and there, for eleven years, they together occupy two little rooms, living without pay and at their own expense, but entirely devoted to the care of the poor sick and dying and of the orphans collected there.[115] Indeed Catherine never again lived outside the walls of the Hospital during the thirty-one years that still remained to her on earth.

2. Catherine’s double life here, 1479-1490.

And here in these rooms, and for eleven years, she worked among the sick, as but one of their many nurses. The spacious, high, white-washed, stone-flagged wards, with the great tall windows shedding floods of glaring light or cheering sunshine, according to the season without and to the mood of the poor sick within, stand still as they stood in Catherine’s day. True, new wards have been added; the lay female Nurses of her time have been in part replaced by Nursing Sisters, and the Observant Friars by Capuchins; much, very much has been discovered since, both as to man’s body and as to the facts and functions of his mind; all things, and man’s interpretation of all things, seem as though irretrievably changed. And yet the mystery of devoted love, its necessity, difficulty, and actual operative presence, as an occasional pang and aspiration in us all, as a visible, dominant influence in some of us, remain with and in us still unchanged, with all the freshness of an elemental force, indestructible, inexhaustible. This devoted work of Catherine, this her serving of the sick “with the most fervent affection, and immense solicitude,”[116] had also the remarkable circumstance about it that,[143] “notwithstanding all this her attentive,” outward-looking “care, she never was without the consciousness of her tender Love; nor again did she, because of this consciousness, fail in any practical matter concerning the Hospital.”[117]

3. Matron of the Hospital, 1490-1496.

And this double life continued thus, and grew in depth and breadth. And at the end of fourteen years of such humble service, she was, in 1490, appointed Matron (Rettora) of the whole Institution, apparently the same year as that in which her now widowed cousin Tommasina entered the Augustinian Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. During the six years in which she held this office, she had much administrative business and responsibility weighing upon her. Large sums of money passed through her hands, and she always managed to spend and to account for them with the greatest care and success. Indeed “her accounts were never found wrong by a single danaro (farthing).”[118]

VII. Catherine and the Plague. The Outbreak of 1493.

It must have been after she had thus shown a rare devotedness and talent in an ordinary Nurse’s work, and had next, as Matron, manifested, for some years, a remarkable administrative ability, that, in 1493, she rose, in both capacities, to the very height of heroism and efficiency.

1. Catherine’s general activity.

Early in January of that year, quite exceptionally cold weather visited the city: the harbour was frozen over; and early in the spring the Plague broke out so fiercely, and raged so long—till the end of August—that of those who remained in the stricken city, four-fifths succumbed to the terrible disease. Most of the rich and noble, all those that did not occupy any official post, fled from the town. But Catherine[144] not only remained at her post, but she it was no doubt who organized, or helped to organize, the out-of-door ambulance and semi-open-air wards which we know to have been instituted at this juncture on the largest scale. The great open space immediately at the back of and above the Hospital, where now still stretch the public gardens of the Acquasola, she managed to cover with rows of sailcloth tents, and appointed special Doctors (mostly Lombards), Nurses, and Priests and Franciscan Tertiaries, for the physical and spiritual care of their occupants. Throughout the weeks and months of the visitation she was daily in their midst, superintending, ordering, stimulating, steadying, consoling, strengthening this vast crowd of panic-stricken poor and severely strained workers.

2. The pestiferous woman.

And “on one occasion, she found” here, “a very devout woman, a Tertiary of St. Francis, dying of” this “pestilential fever. The woman lay there in her agony, speechless for eight days. And Catherine constantly visited her, and would say to her, ‘Call Jesus.’ Unable to articulate, the woman would move her lips; and it was conjectured that she was calling Him as well as she could. And Catherine, when she saw the woman’s mouth thus filled, as it were, with Jesus, could not restrain herself from kissing it with great and tender affection. And in this way she herself took this pestilential fever, and very nearly died of it. But, as soon as ever she had recovered, she was back again at her work, with the same great attention and diligence.”[119]

How much there is in this little scene! Beautiful, utterly self-oblivious impulsiveness; a sleepless sense of the omnipresence of Christ as Love, and of this Love filling all things that aspire and thirst after it, as spontaneously as the liberal air and the overflowing mother’s breast fill and feed even the but slightly aspiring or the painfully labouring lungs and the eager, helpless infant mouth; swift, tender, warm, whole-hearted affection for this outwardly poor and disfigured, but inwardly rich and beautiful fellow-creature and twin-vessel of election; an underlying virile elasticity of perseverance and strenuous, cheerful, methodical laboriousness; all these things are clearly there.

Only when everything had again returned to its normal[145] condition did she once more restrict herself to the administrative work of the Hospital.[120]

VIII. Catherine and Ettore Vernazza, 1493-1495.

It must have been during this epidemic of 1493 that Catherine first got to know, or at least first to work with, a man hardly less remarkable than herself.

1. Ettore’s family, marriage, and philanthropic work.

The Genoese notary Ettore Vernazza, Catherine’s junior by some twenty-three years, (as in the cases of his still greater[146] contemporaries and compatriots, Columbus, Pope Julius II, and Andrea Doria, the year of his birth remains uncertain, but is probably 1470,) was a scion of the ancient house of Vernaccia, which derived its name from a wine-producing village on the Eastern Riviera. A Riccobono Vernaccia had been Chancellor of Genoa, as far back as 1345. Ettore, the first of the family to write his name Vernazza, was the son of the Notary Pietro Vernaccia and of Battistina Spinola, his wife. A sister of his, Marietta, married into the Fieschi family.[121] And if Catherine really did go among the pestiferous sick, she can hardly have failed to meet Ettore, now twenty-three years old. For his eldest daughter, the Augustinian Canoness, the Venerable Battista Vernazza, a most careful writer and one full of a life-long vivid remembrance of her father, in an account of Ettore, written by her in Genoa in 1581 (she was born in 1497, four years after the event she describes), tells of “a great compassion which he had conceived when still very young, at the time that the pestilence raged in Genoa, and when he used to go around to aid the poor, and when he found that, by means of a preparation of cassia, he could bring them back from (certain) death to life.”[122]

2. Ettore’s character; Catherine’s chief biographer.

Ettore was, and he kept and made himself, and rare graces fashioned him ever increasingly into, a man of fine and keen, deep and world-embracing mind and heart, of an overflowing, ceaseless activity, and of a will of steel. To him, the earliest and perhaps up to the end the most intimate, certainly the most perceptive, of Catherine’s disciples and chroniclers, we owe the transmission of many of the reminiscences of her conversion and early strivings (no doubt primarily derived from her own self), and of probably more than half of such authentic sayings and discourses of hers,[147] as were recorded contemporaneously with their utterance. Indeed all that remains to us of written testimony, contemporaneous in this strict sense of the word, and that is other than legal documents, can, up to 1499, be safely attributed to him. And all such constituents of the now sadly mixed up, and most varyingly valuable, materials and successive layers of the Vita ed Opere as can with probability be assigned to his composition, are characterized by a remarkable clearness and consistency, restraint and refinement, elasticity and freshness of spiritual apprehension and sympathy. Thus Ettore’s influence back upon the formation of Catherine’s literary image and of our entire, especially of our authentic, conception of her, was predominant, and her influence upon his whole life was decisive; and hence his life can be rightly taken as an indefinite extension and new application and necessary supplementation of her own life and doctrine. I shall then, for both these reasons, try and work up what we can recover concerning the successive stages of his intercourse with Catherine and of the growth of his own life up to her death, into the corresponding vicissitudes of her remaining years.

It must have been two years later (1495) that Vernazza became her disciple; and probably some two or three years still further on, that Ettore began to keep (no doubt at first only quite occasional) records of her Sayings and Doings.[123]

IX. Catherine’s Health breaks down, 1496; other Events of the Same Year.

The year 1496 is marked by various events external and internal.

1. Three external changes.

In June, or some time before, Vernazza marries the beautiful Bartolommea Ricci, of the distinguished family of that name.[148] On the 17th of June Giuliano sells his Palace in the Via St. Agnese. And, probably at Midsummer, perhaps at Michaelmas, Catherine, forced to do so by increasing physical infirmities, resigns her office of Matron.[124]

2. End of the extraordinary Fasts.

Catherine “was now no more able to have a care of the government of the Hospital or of her own little house” (within its precincts) “owing to her great bodily weakness. She would now find it necessary, after Communion, to take some food to restore her bodily strength, and this even if it was a fast day.” We thus get the beginning of a third period with regard to such fasting powers. In the first, she had done as all the world, but had been able to keep all the Church fasts and abstinences. In the second, she had, during Lent and Advent, eaten little or nothing, and had, during the remainder of the time, lived as she had done before. And now, for the rest of her life, her eating and fasting are entirely fitful and intermittent, and she has to abandon all (at least systematic) attempts to keep even the ordinary Church fasts and abstinences.

If we are determined to insist on the accuracy of the “twenty-three Lents and twenty-two Advents” of her extraordinary fasts affirmed already by MS. “A,” we shall have to understand this present inability to fast as applying, till after Lent 1496, only to the times outside of Lent and Advent, since this fasting period cannot be made to begin earlier than Lent 1476. I take it that in this, as certainly in most other cases, there was, in reality, a much more gradual transition than the Vita accounts would lead one to expect.

3. She continues within the Hospital precincts. Her two maid-servants.

Catherine had ceased to be Matron, but she did not leave the ample precincts of the Hospital; indeed she continued in the separate little house, which she had, probably since 1490,[149] been occupying with Giuliano. But it will be better to describe her abode a little later on, when we can be quite sure as to its identity.

She had now, as I think had been the case since soon after she had left her Palace, two maids in her service: the widow and Franciscan Tertiary, Benedetta Lombarda, who appears, already then as an old and valued servant, in Giuliano’s will of October 1494, and who never left Catherine till her death; and a younger, unmarried maid, either Mariola Bastarda or a certain Antonietta. Argentina del Sale, too, will have often, perhaps continually, been about Catherine, aiding her in various ways; but she will not as yet have been living under the same roof with her. As we shall find, this little perfervid and untrained intelligence became the instrument, or at least the occasion, of the introduction of the largest legendary incident into the ultimate Vita of her mistress.

X. Events of 1497.

The next year, 1497, is marked by two events, of all but contradictory import and effect.

1. Birth of Tommasina (Battista) Vernazza.

On April 15 Vernazza’s first child, a daughter, is born; and Catherine is her God-mother and holds her at the Font. Dottore Tommaso Moro, a learned lawyer friend of Ettore, is the God-father, and the child is given his name and is called Tommasina. What would Catherine have felt or said had she foreseen the vicissitudes—they will occupy us in due course—through which this, her fellow God-parent, was to pass, during the storms of that Religious Revolution which were to break out so soon after her death? She would, we may be sure, have at all events been glad at the action and influence of her God-daughter towards and upon her God-father, in those sad and most difficult times.

2. Giuliano’s death.

And Giuliano was gravely ill ever since the beginning of the year, if not before; and some time in August or September he died.[125] He had been suffering long from a[150] chronic and most painful illness; and towards the end, “he became very impatient; and Catherine, fearful lest he should lose his soul, withdrew into another chamber, and there cried aloud for his salvation unto her tender Love, ever repeating with tears and sighs these words alone: ‘O Love, I demand this soul of Thee; I beg Thee, give it me, for indeed Thou canst do so.’ And having persevered thus for about half-an-hour with many a plaint, she was given at last an interior assurance of having been heard. And returning to her husband, she found him all changed and peaceful in his ways, and giving clear indications, both by words and signs, that he was fully resigned to the will of God.” And “some time after his death she said to a spiritual son of hers,” no doubt Vernazza: “‘My son, Messer Giuliano has gone; and you know well that he was of a somewhat wayward nature, whence I suffered much mental pain. But my tender Love, before that he passed from this Life, certified me of his salvation.’ And Catherine, having spoken these words, showed signs of regret at having uttered them; and he was discreet and did not answer this remark of hers, but turned the conversation to other topics.”[126] At all events this conversation is thoroughly authentic, and Catherine’s reserve, and her regret at having somewhat broken through her usual restraint, are profoundly characteristic: the contributors to and redactors of her Life have been increasingly blind, or[151] even opposed, to all such beautifully spontaneous and human little shynesses and regrets for momentary indiscretions.

3. Giuliano’s Will.

Giuliano had, by his Will of the 20th October 1494, ordered his body to be buried in the Hospital Church; and this was now carried out by Catherine. A vault of some dimensions must have been made or bought, since later both she herself and Argentina del Sale declared their wish to be buried in Giuliano’s “monument.” Perhaps the wish of the latter was carried out.

But Giuliano had left two far more important and difficult matters to the management of Catherine,—matters which, indeed, were respectively full of pain and of anxiety for her,—Thobia, and his share in the Island of Scios. As to Thobia, he had left £500 to the Protectors of the Hospital, among which were reckoned £200 which he had already paid them through his late mother, Thobia Adorna, for the keep of this daughter of his, and had warmly recommended her to their kind care; and had arranged, in case they refused this responsibility, that Thobia (who must by now have been quite twenty-six years of age) should be regularly paid the interest on this money. He also left to Catherine, for payment to “a certain person in Religion,”—possibly a member of a Third Order, and whose identity is carefully concealed, but who cannot fail to be Thobia’s mother—“£150, in repayment of the same sum, borrowed from her by himself and the said Catherine,”—money which this poor mother will have spent on the child’s keep, up to the time when Giuliano told his story to Catherine.

As to his two carati (shares) in the lands of the Island of Scios, farmed by the Genoese Merchant Company “Maona,” he desires that, if sold, his cousins Agostino and Giovanni Adorno shall be able to buy these carati for a lower price than would be required of any other purchaser. There are also elaborate conditions and alternatives attached to a legacy of £2,000 to his unmarried nephew Giovanni Adorno, with a view to his marrying and having legitimate children: an anxiety which of itself would show how sincere had been Giuliano’s own conversion, and which was evidently not far-fetched, since in this very Will he leaves £125 to a natural sister of his, Catherine, daughter of his father Jacobo, for the boarding (no doubt during the latter years of her life) of his late mother, Thobia Adorna.


Giuliano had also left Catherine herself £1,000,—a return of her marriage dowry, and £100 from himself; and in addition “all garments, trinkets, gold, silver, cash, furniture, and articles of vertu, which might be found either in his dwelling-place or elsewhere.” And he does so because he “knows and recognizes that the said Catherine, his beloved wife and heiress, has ever behaved herself well and laudably towards himself,” and “wants to provide the means for her continuing to lead, after his death, her quiet, peaceful, and spiritual mode of life.” And he adds the condition that, “if the said Catherine were to proceed to a second marriage (a thing which he does not think she will ever do), then he deprives her of all the legacies and rights and duties of heirship mentioned in this Will, and confers them upon the honourable Office of the Misericordia of Genoa,”—a society with and for which, as we have seen, Catherine had worked so much and so well.

Altogether Giuliano had left by this Will about £6,000 for Catherine to allot and appropriate; and quite £4,000 of this sum-total demanded careful and even anxious consideration, whilst £650 of it could not but provoke painful memories and make a call upon all her generosity. And by his Codicil of January 1497, he had given her still greater latitude of action, by declaring that, as regarded his legacy to the Hospital, Catherine should have full power and leave to abrogate or to modify it, according to her will and pleasure.[127] Thus these documents constitute an impressive proof of Giuliano’s full trust in the wisdom, balance of mind and magnanimity of his wife, now herself already so broken in health.

4. Catherine’s execution of Giuliano’s Will.

It is nine months after Giuliano’s death, on May 19, 1498, that we can watch and see how Catherine has been attempting to execute her trust, and how her nature has responded to these various difficult calls upon it, and to the claims of her own family. She first of all, then, orders her body to be buried in the same grave with her husband, in the Hospital Church; and that only the Friars and Clergy of the Hospital shall be present at the funeral; and leaves £10 for her obsequies and £50 for Masses for herself. She next leaves to the Priest Blasio Cicero four shares of the Bank of St. George (about £200), of which he is to pay £150 to a certain[153] female Religious, in satisfaction for a certain debt. And she abrogates Giuliano’s legacy to the Hospital, and, in its place, herself leaves it four shares of St. George’s (at the time about £200, but always tending to increase in value), in liquidation of the £300 that remained unpaid from among the £500 of that legacy. She next leaves to Benedetta Lombarda one share of Saint George’s, in addition to the similar share left her by Giuliano; and to “Antonietta, dwelling with Testatrix, £25, in case she shall live with her up to her death.” As to the two carati, she leaves them to Giovanni Adorno, in lieu of the money bequeathed to him by Giuliano. As to her own relations, she leaves two shares of St. George’s apiece to her two nieces Maria and Battista, the daughters of her eldest brother Jacobo, for their marriage portions; and, if they all die before marriage, then all this money is to go to their father. She leaves £10 to her Augustinian Canoness sister Limbania; and institutes her three brothers Jacobo, Giovanni and Lorenzo, and their heirs, her residuary legatees.

Here four things are noticeable. Catherine has herself undertaken the expenses of Thobia’s keep; the apparent lessening on her part of the sum originally apportioned for the purpose by Giuliano is doubtless only apparent, and must proceed from the same cause which has produced a similar apparent diminution in the amount of Giuliano’s legacy to his nephew from £2,000 to £1,500. In the next place, this is the only one out of the couple’s four Wills, in which the second maid is not Mariola Bastarda, but a certain Antonietta. Catherine feels uncertain as to whether Antonietta will persevere in her service to the end; and we shall find that she has again disappeared in Catherine’s next Will of 1506, and that Mariola has again taken up her old place. We shall find that a story, of which the authenticity and significance are most difficult to fix, attaches without doubt to one or the other of these maids. In the third place, Catherine does not sell the two carati, but leaves them, in lieu of the money bequeathed to him, to Giovanni Adorno; no doubt from the feeling that thus, at her death, this her share in the government and exploitation of the Greek island would be in the hands of a man in the prime of life, who could help to check malpractices. And lastly, she shows a generous forgiveness of Giuliano, a delicate magnanimity towards Thobia and Thobia’s mother, and a thoughtful affection for all her own near and grown-up relations, by ordering her body to be buried[154] in the same grave with Giuliano; by herself undertaking the charges of Thobia’s keep, and appointing a priest by name for handing over Giuliano’s legacy to the still unnamed mother of Thobia; and by remembering her sister, although she had long been provided for in her Convent, her three brothers, who were no doubt indefinitely richer than herself, and especially her two marriageable nieces. Altogether, of the £2,304 definitely accounted for in the Will, she leaves £69 for her own funeral and for Masses for herself; £400 for Thobia and her mother; £210 to her own relations; £125 to servants; and £1,500 to her husband’s nephew. There is no trace here of any indifference to the natural ties of kindred, or of an abstraction of mind rendering her incapable of a careful consideration and firm decision in matters of business: a point which we shall find to be of much importance, later on.

5. Ettore’s “Mandiletto”-work.

In this year, too, if not already in the previous one, Vernazza founded the institution of the “Mandiletto.” Still a young man—for he was now at most but twenty-eight—Ettore had been noticing, in his work among the poor, how much misery of all kinds obtained in commercial, money-making, hazard-loving Genoa, amongst persons who, even though ill, refused to take refuge in the hospitals; and who, however poor at present, had known better, even brilliant days, and were too proud to beg, or even to accept alms from any one who could recognize them. And hence he now organized a system for discovering and visiting such persons in their own homes and for minimizing their pain in accepting help, by arranging that the members of this little fraternity should never visit such houses, except with some kind of little veil or handkerchief (fazzoletto, mandiletto) applied to their faces.[128]

Catherine, who had helped the Uffizio della Misericordia so much, and who herself so greatly disliked being noticed or even simply seen whenever she was doing or suffering anything at all out of the common, had no doubt, at least in a general way, inspired this beautifully delicate means of preserving and sparing the bashfulness of the giver and the dignity of the recipient. Throughout the remaining years of her life she must have cared to hear Vernazza’s report as to the progress of this work.


XI. Beginning of her Third, Last Period; End of the Extraordinary Fasts; First Relations with Don Marabotto.

But it is in the next year, 1499, that we reach the actual beginning of the third and last period of Catherine’s Convert life.

1. End of the Fasts; transfer of the “carati.”

Some of the events of this year are again predominantly external, or but continuations or consequences of previous inclinations of her will. It must have been at the end of the Lent of this spring-time that all extraordinary fasting-power, of a kind that could be foreseen and that more or less synchronized with the ecclesiastical season, left her for good and all. And she had gone on feeling strongly her share of responsibility for the government of that far-off island. Hence she betook herself, on September 18 of this year, with the Notary Battista Strata, who has drawn up nine out of the fourteen Legal Acts of Giuliano and herself, to the great palace of the Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, who, four years later, became Pope Julius II. This palace stood by the (now destroyed) Church of San Tommaso, and was at this time the residence of Giovanni Adorno. And there, in the great Loggia looking south, Catherine dictated the substance of an Act of Cession then and there to her husband’s nephew of those two carati, which weighed so heavily on her mind. Perhaps Giovanni was in poor health, and Catherine was too eager to eschew her responsibility in the matter to be willing to wait any longer.[129]

2. Beginning of Catherine’s relations with Don Marabotto.

The chief event, however, from the point of view of her inner life, and which gives us a second close and most important eyewitness for her last period, was the beginning of her spiritual relations with Don Marabotto.[156][130] “At the end of the twenty-five years during which she had persevered the way of God without the means of any creature,” says the Vita, “the Lord gave her a priest, to take care both of her soul and of her body; a spiritual man and one of holy life, to whom God gave light and grace to understand His operations within her. He had been appointed Rector of the Hospital; and hence was in a position to hear her Confession, say Mass for her, and give her Holy Communion according to her convenience.”[131] Now the rare and profound isolation and independence of her middle period render this turning to and finding of human help specially significant; the numerous sayings addressed to her Confessor to be found throughout the Vita were all, with the sole exception of those contained in the Conversion-scene, spoken to Marabotto and transmitted by him to us;[132] and probably at least half of the narrative of her Life and well-nigh all her Passion are due to Don Marabotto’s pen. It is then important, and it is possible to get a fairly clear idea as to the sort of man he was.

3. Don Marabotto’s family and character; Catherine’s attitude towards him.

Don Cattaneo came from a stock even more ancient and distinguished than that of Vernazza. A Marabotto had had a lawsuit with the Bishop of Genoa in 1128; Roggiero Marabotto had lent money to the King of Sardinia in 1164; Martino Marabotto had been Ambassador to Rome, Florence, and Lucca in 1256; Pelagio of that name had been Notary to the Mint in 1435; Giorgio, a Doctor of Medicine in 1424; Ambrosio, Lieutenant-Governor of Corsica in 1459. And the[157] family, like the Fieschi, had always been Guelph: Federico Marabotto had armed nine galleys against the Ghibellines and had had a narrow escape from the latter, during a dark night of 1330; and Antonio and Domenico were known Guelph leaders in 1450 and 1452. Indeed the latter was Procurator to the Fieschi family in 1443, and thus anticipated, by sixty years and on a larger scale, Don Cattaneo’s management of Catherine Fiesca’s modest affairs.[133]

Don Cattaneo himself we find ever gentle, patient, devoted and full of unquestioning reverence towards Catherine; most valuably accurate and detailed in his reproduction of things, in proportion to their tangibleness; naïf and without humour, thoroughly matter of fact, readily identifying the physical with the spiritual, and thus often, unconsciously, all but succeeding in depriving Catherine’s spirit, for us who have so largely to see her with his eyes, of much of its specially characteristic transcendence and of its equally characteristic ethical and spiritual immanence. Such a mind would appear better fitted to follow,—at a respectful distance,—than to lead such a spirit, as Catherine’s; and, indeed, to be more apt to help her as a man of business than as a man of God. As a matter of fact, however, he was quite evidently of very great help and consolation, even in purely spiritual matters, to Catherine, during these last eleven years of her life. Not as though there were any instances of his initiating, stimulating, or modifying any of her ideals or doctrines: she entirely remains, in purely spiritual matters, her own old self, and continues to grow completely along the lines of her previous development. And again he did attend, with an all but unbroken assiduity, to matters not directly belonging to his province qua priest,—to her much-tried, ever-shifting bodily health, and, probably some three or four years later on, to her financial affairs, which latter were still of some variety and complication, owing to her generous anxiety to do much for others, with but little of her own. But between these two opposite extremes of possible help or influence lay another middle level, in which his aid was considerable. For[158] “whenever God worked anything within her, which impressioned her much either in soul or body, she would confer about it all with her Confessor; and he, with the grace and light of God, understood well-nigh all, and would give her answers which seemed to show that he himself felt the very thing that she was feeling herself.” “And she would say, that even simply to have him by, gave her great comfort, because they understood each other, even by just looking each other in the face without speaking.”[134] Marabotto’s Direction consists, then, in giving her the human support of human understanding and sympathy, and, no doubt, in reminding her, in times of darkness, of the lights and truths received and communicated by her in times of consolation. Never does Marabotto see, or think he sees, as far or as clearly as she sees, when she sees at all; and it is the light derived by him from herself at one time, which he administers to her soul at another.

4. Catherine’s first Confession to Don Cattaneo.

The general tone and character of her first Confession to him are described to us, no doubt from his own contemporary record. “She said: ‘Father, I know not where I am, either as to my soul or as to my body. I should like to confess, but I cannot perceive any offence committed by me.’” “And as to the sins which she mentioned,” adds Marabotto, “she was not allowed to see them as so many sins, thought or said or done by herself. But her state of soul was like unto that of a small boy, who would have committed some slight offence in simple ignorance; and who, if some one told him: You have done evil, would at these words suddenly change colour and blush, and yet not because he has now an experimental knowledge of evil.” “And many a time she would say to her Confessor: ‘I do not want to neglect Confession, and yet I do not know to whom to give the blame of my sins; I want to accuse myself, and cannot manage it.’ And yet, with all this, she made all the acts appropriate to Confession.”[135]

We shall see, indeed, how keen, right up to the end, was her sense of her frailty and of her general and natural inclination to evil. And her teaching as to numerous positive and active imperfections remaining in the soul, in every soul, up[159] to the very end, is so clear and constant, and so admittedly derived from her own experience, that we can explain the above only by the supplementary part of her doctrine (also derived from her own experience), which insists that some greatly advanced souls do not, at the time of committing them, as yet see these their imperfections, and that, by the time they have so far further advanced as to see these imperfections, they are no more inclined to commit them. In this way, then, there would be no fully formal sin or deliberate imperfection to confess.

XII. Her Conversations with her Disciples; “Caterina Serafina.” Don Marabotto and the Possessed Maid.

1. Pure Love and Heaven.

It is probably during the next two years of her life, that occurred the beautiful scene and conversation,—so typical of her relations with her disciples during this first part of her last period (1499 to 1501), which we can think of as her spiritual Indian summer, her Aftermath. The scene has been recorded for us by her chief interlocutor, Vernazza. Probably Bartolommea, Ettore’s wife, was present, and possibly also Don Marabotto. “This blessed soul,” he writes, “all surrounded though she was by the deep and peaceful ocean of her Love, God, desired nevertheless to express in words, to her spiritual children, the sentiments that were within her. And many a time she would say to them: ‘O would that I could tell what my heart feels!’ And her children would say: ‘O Mother, tell us something of it.’ And she would answer: ‘I cannot find words appropriate to so great a love. But this I can say with truth, that if of what my heart feels but one drop were to fall into Hell, Hell itself would altogether turn into Eternal Life.’”[136] “And one of these her spiritual children, an interior soul (un Religioso),”—Vernazza, present on this occasion,—[160]“dismayed at what she was saying, replied: ‘Mother, I do not understand this; if it were possible, I would gladly understand it better.’ But Catherine answered: ‘My son, I find it impossible to put it otherwise.’ Then he, eager to understand further, said: ‘Mother, supposing we gave your word some interpretation, and that this corresponded to what is in your mind, would you tell us if it was so?’ ‘Willingly, dear son,’ rejoined Catherine, with evident pleasure.”

“And the disciple continued: ‘The matter might perhaps stand in this wise.’ And he then explained how that the love which she was feeling united her, by participation, with the goodness of God, so that she no more distinguished herself from God. Now Hell stands for the very opposite, since all the spirits therein are in rebellion against God. If then it were possible for them to receive even a little drop of such union, it would deprive them of all rebellion against God, and would so unite them with Love, with God Himself, as to make them be in Life Eternal. For Hell is everywhere where there is such rebellion; and Life Eternal, wheresoever there is such union. And the Mother, hearing this, appeared to be in a state of interior jubilation; whence with beaming face she answered: ‘O dear son, truly the matter stands as you have said; and hearing you speak, I feel it really is so. But my mind and tongue are so immersed in this Love, that I cannot myself either say or think these or other reasons.’ And the Disciple then said: ‘O Mother, could you not ask your Love, God, for some of these little drops of union for your sons?’ She answered, and with increased joyousness: ‘I see this tender Love to be so full of condescension to these my sons, that for them I can ask nothing of It, and can only present them before His sight.’”[137]

I sincerely know not where to look for a doctrine of grander depth and breadth, of more vibrating aliveness; for one more directly the result of life, or leading more directly to it, than are those few half-utterances and delicately strong indications of an overflowing interior plenitude and radiant, all-conquering peace.

And even one such scene is sufficient to make us feel that the following passage of the Dialogo is, in its substance and tone, profoundly true to facts: “This soul remained henceforth” (in this third period)[161] “many a time in company with its many spiritual friends, discoursing of the Divine Love, in such wise that they felt as though in Paradise, both collectively, and each one in his own particular way. How delightful were these colloquies! He who spoke and he who listened, each one fed on spiritual food of a delicious kind; and because the time flew so swiftly, they never could attain satiety, but, all on fire within them, they would remain there, unable at last to speak, unable to depart, as though in ecstasy.”[138]

2. “Caterina Serafina”.

Five times the Vita compares her countenance, which, when she was deeply moved, had a flushed, luminous and transparent appearance, to that of an Angel or Cherub or Seraph;[139] and it even gives a story, which purports to explain how she came to be called the latter. And though this anecdote may be little more than a literary dramatization of this popular appellation of Catherine; and although, even if the scene be historical, Catherine has no kind of active share in bringing it about; yet the passage is, in any case, of some real interest, since it testifies to and typifies Catherine’s abundance of moral and mental sanity and strong, serene restorative influence over unbalanced or tempted souls, and this at a time when she herself had already been in delicate health for about five years.

The story is interesting also in that it shows how strikingly like the superficial psycho-physical symptoms of persons described as possessed by an evil spirit were, and were thought to be, to those of ecstasy, hence to Catherine’s own. Thus when an attack seized this “spiritual daughter of Catherine,—a woman of large mind (alto intelleto), who lived and died in virginity, and under the same roof with Catherine” (no doubt Catherine’s second, unmarried servant Mariola Bastarda is meant, and each must have had experience of the other’s powers and wants from or before 1490 till 1497, and again from 1500 onwards),—“she would become greatly agitated and be thrown to the ground. The evil spirit would enter into her mind, and would not allow her to think of divine things. And she would thus be as one beside herself, all submerged in that malign and diabolic will.”—And similarly we are told that Catherine would “throw herself to the ground, altogether beside herself,” “immersed in a sea,”—in this case,[162] “of the deepest peace”; and “she would writhe as though she were a serpent.”[140]

Yet this superficial likeness between these two states,—a likeness apparent already in the similar double series of phenomena described in St. Paul’s Epistles and in the Acts of the Apostles,—serves, here also, but to bring out in fuller relief the profound underlying spiritual and moral difference between the two conditions of soul. For it is precisely in Catherine’s company that, when insufferable to her own self, the afflicted Mariola would recover her peace and self-possession, so that “even a silent look up to Catherine’s face would help to bring relief.”[141]

It is in 1500, soon after Mariola’s return to her mistress (I take the maid’s state of health to have occasioned her absence from Catherine for two years or so), that this spiritual daughter is represented as declaring in the first stage of one of these attacks,—or rather “the unclean spirit” possessing her is said to have exclaimed to Catherine “We are both of us thy slaves, because of that pure love which thou possessest in thy heart”; and “full of rage at having made this admission, he threw himself on the ground, and writhed with the feet.” And then when,—all this is supposed to take place in the presence of both Catherine and Don Marabotto,—the possessed one has stood up, the Confessor forces the spirit step by step to speak out and to declare successively that Catherine is “Caterina,” “Adorna or Fiesca,” and “Caterina Serafina,” the latter being uttered amidst great torment.[142]


XIII. Catherine’s Sympathy with Animal- and Plant-Life: her Love of the Open Air. Her Deep Self-knowledge as to the Healthiness or Morbidness of her Psycho-Physical States.

1. Increase of suffering and of range of sympathy.

It is indeed in this last period of her life that we can most clearly see a deeply attractive mixture of personal suffering and of tender sympathy with even the humblest of all things that live. And this is doubtless not simply due to the much fuller evidence possessed by us for these last years, but is quite as much owing to the actual increase of these twin things within herself. “She was most compassionate towards all creatures; so that, if an animal were killed or a tree cut down, she could hardly bear to see them lose that being which God had given them.”[143] And a beautiful communion of spirit[164] can now be traced even between plant-life and herself; and an innocent self-diversion from a too exciting concentration, and help towards a patient keeping or a bracing reconquering of calmness, is now found by her, Franciscan-like, in the open air and amidst the restful flowers and trees. Thus “at times she would seem to have her mind in a mill; and as if this mill were indeed grinding her, soul and body”; and then “she would walk up and down in the garden, and would address the plants and trees and say: ‘Are not you also creatures created by my God? Are not you, too, obedient to Him?’”—even though, I think she meant to say, your life moves on so instinctive, calm, and freely expansive in the large, liberal air, as I feel it to do, by its very contrast to my own eager, crowded life, struggling in vain for a sustained perfection of equipoise and for an even momentary adequacy of self-expression. “And doing thus, she would gradually be comforted.”[144]

Indeed she would, in still intenser moods, use plants and other creatures of God in a more violent fashion. But this is now no more done as of old, for direct purposes of mortification; but, at one time, from an unreflective transport of delight, delight which itself seems ever to impel noble natures to seek to mix some suffering with it; and, at another time, for the purpose of producing strong physical impressios, counter-stimulations and escapes from a too great intensity of interior feeling. “She would at times, when in the garden, seize hold of the thorn-covered twigs of the rose-bushes with both her hands; and would not feel any pain whilst thus doing it in a transport of mind. She would also bite her hands and burn them, and this in order to divert, if possible, her interior oppression.”[145]

2. She alone keeps the sense of the truly spiritual, in the midst of her psycho-physical states.

Indeed nothing is more characteristic of her psychic state,[165] during these years, than the ever-increasing intensity, shiftingness and close interrelation between the physical and mental. But we shall find that, whereas those who surround her, Confessor, Doctors, Disciples, Attendants, all, in various degrees and ways, increasingly insist upon and persist in finding direct proofs of the supernatural in the purely physical phenomena of her state even when taken separately, and indeed more and more in exact proportion to their non-spiritual character: Catherine herself, although no doubt not above the medical or psychical knowledge of her time, remains admirably centred in the truly spiritual, and continually awake to the necessity of interior spiritual selection amongst and assimilation and transformation of all such psycho-physical impressions and conditions. Even in the midst of the extreme weaknesses of her last illness we shall see her only quite exceptionally, and ever for but a few instants, without this consciousness of the deep yet delicate difference in ethical value and helpfulness between the various psycho-physical things experienced by herself, and of the requirements, duties and perceptions of her own spirit with regard to them.

And this attitude is all the more remarkable because, to the outer difficulty arising from the persistent, far more immediate, and apparently more directly religious, view of all her little world about her, came two peculiarities working in the same direction from within her own self. There was the old constitutional keenness and concentration of her highly nervous physical and psychical temperament, and the rarely high pitch and swift pace of her whole inner life, which must, at all times, have rendered suspense of judgment and detachment with regard to her own sensations and quasi-physical impressions specially difficult. And there was now the new intensity and closeness of interaction between soul and body, which must have made such lofty detachment from all but spiritual realities a matter of the rarest grace and of the most heroic self-conquest.

3. Catherine’s health does not break up completely till 1507.

The Vita, indeed, as we now have it, tells us that “about nine years before her death,” hence in 1501, “an infirmity came upon her, which neither her attendants nor the doctors knew how to identify”; and that “there was confusion, not on her own part, but on the part of those who served her.”[146] But[166] this whole Chapter XLVII (pp. 127-132) of the present Vita, which opens out thus, is wanting in MSS. “A” and “B”; and is composed of documents which appear, in a fuller and more primitive form and in their right chronological place, in the next three chapters (pp. 132-160), chapters without doubt predominantly due to Marabotto; and of the documents making up the present Chapter XXXVIII (pp. 98, 99), which are earlier again, in both contents and composition, and are very certainly the work of Vernazza. And this means that, though the present Chapter XLVII claims to give a general account of her condition during 1501-1510, it does not, as a matter of fact, give us anything but details belonging without doubt to 1507-1510.

The manner in which this late compiler insists upon the directly spiritual, indeed supernatural, character of even the clearly secondary and physical phenomena of her state, make it highly probable that, having once exaggerated the quality, he readily snatched at any indications (possibly a slip of the pen in some MS., writing 1501 instead of 1507; we have a similar slip in MS. “A” which on p. 193 twice writes 1506 for 1509), which favoured an early date for the beginning of her last illness. Certainly the legal documents at our disposal show her to us still variously interested and active, right up to 1507.

It will, then, be better first to describe this activity up to 1507, and to take even the general questions concerning her illness in connection with her last four years, 1507-1510.

XIV. Catherine’s Social Joys and Sorrows, 1501-1507.

1. Birth of Ettore’s last two daughters.

It will have been during these years 1501 to 1507, unless indeed already between 1497 and 1501, that Vernazza’s second and third daughters were born; and if Catherine had stood God-mother to his eldest child, Tommasina, it is inconceivable that she should not have cared for Tommasina’s sisters, Catetta and Ginevrina. Certainly their father, Catherine’s closest friend and disciple, gave detailed attention, right up to the end of his strenuous life, to all three children; and made most thoughtful particular provision, in his still extant remarkable Will of 1517, for the youngest, Ginevrina, who at that time was the only one not[167] yet settled in life.[147] Thus Vernazza knew how to combine all this detailed thought for his own children with the spacious public spirit of which his Dispositions are a still extant, most impressive monument; and Catherine, who was his deepest inspirer, clearly led the way here, right up to the last four years of her life. For we have already seen how she managed to conjoin, in a fashion similar to Ettore’s, a universalist love for Love Transcendent, with a particularism of attachment to individual souls, in which that Love is immanent.

2. Deaths of Limbania, Jacobo, and Giovanni.

And if she had joy over souls coming into the world, she had sorrow over souls leaving it. For in the single year 1502 she lost her only sister, Limbania, and her two elder brothers Jacopo and Giovanni. It is true that the Vita says: “There died several of her brothers and sisters; but, owing to the great union which she had with the tender will of God, she felt no pain, as though they had not been of her own blood.”[148] But then we have already often found how subject to caution and rebate are all such general, absolute statements; this passage in particular is, by its vagueness and ambiguity (she had but one sister of her own), stamped as late and more or less secondary; and we shall trace, later on, a similar even more extensive a priori modification of her authentic image in the Dialogo. Certainly her Wills show no kind of indifference to her own relations. In that of 1498 she specially and carefully remembered these very three relations; and in proportion as these two brothers’ children grow up and at all require her help, Catherine specially refers to and plans for them,—so for Jacobo’s eldest daughter Maria, in view of getting her married (Wills of 1498, 1503, 1506, 1509); and for Giovanni’s three sons (Wills of 1503, 1506, 1509). Jacobo’s second daughter seems also to have died at this time, as she no more appears after the Will of 1498. We shall see how exactly the same affectionate interest is shown by her towards her still remaining brother and his two sons.[149]


3. The Triptych “Maestà.”

And she evidently still went on increasing the number of the objects of her interest and affection, and the degree of her attachment to such objects as she already loved. For in her Codicil of the next year, January 1503, she gives a careful description of a picture now belonging to herself, “a ‘Majesty,’ representing the Virgin Mary with Saint Joseph, and the Lord Jesus at their feet, with her” (Fieschi-Adorni) “coat-of-arms painted within and without.” The picture evidently represented the Adoration of the Infant Jesus, and was painted on wood,—a triptych: with Catherine’s arms painted both inside and outside the two wings. She again describes it thus fully in her Wills of 1506 and 1509, leaving it, on all those occasions, to a certain Christofero de Clavaro (Christofer of Chiavari?). It is then quite clear both that this picture had been specially painted by some one for Catherine, and that Catherine, for some reason or reasons, greatly treasured it. Who then was the painter and what was the reason? I think both are not difficult to find.

We have seen how Catherine’s much-loved cousin, the widowed Tommasina Fiesca, had in 1497 moved into the Monastero Nuovo in the Aquasola quarter,—close to Catherine’s abode; so that the cousins will have met constantly from that time forward. We have also seen that this distinguished artist painted many a “Pietà” (the dead Christ on His Mother’s lap, possibly with Angels on each side), and executed a piece of needlework again representative of a group,—this time God the Father with many Angels above, and Christ below. Indeed Federico Alizeri has succeeded in rediscovering one of her works, a representation of Christ crowned with thorns and surrounded by the Instruments and Mysteries of His Passion, painted in fine outline upon sheepskin mounted on a wood-panel.[150] And we have seen how much Catherine had, as a child, been affected by a “Pietà,” and shall find her, even after this date, still affected by a religious picture. There can then be no reasonable doubt that Suor Tommasina was[169] the painter and giver of this picture,—again a group, a “Maestà,” instead of the usual “Pietà.”

And the facts of Catherine caring to possess, to preserve, and to transmit something thus specially appropriated to herself, with her family arms upon a religious picture, are all deeply significant touches, and quite unlike what all the secondary, and even some of the primary, parts of the Vita would lead one to expect.

4. Increasing care for Thobia.

And this same Codicil shows us how her care, and no doubt her genuine affection, for Thobia was growing. For she now leaves her the income on two shares of the Bank of St. George (no doubt only a slight gift, about £2 10s. a year; but Catherine possesses but very little that she is free to leave as she likes, the claims upon her are very many, and the young woman is already well provided for, considering her social station), her better silk gown, a skirt, and various veils. The poor girl died in 1504 or 1505, for in Catherine’s Will of 1506 she appears as “the late Thobia.” She must have been about thirty years old at the time.

5. Argentina del Sale; story of Marco del Sale’s death.

But in lieu of poor Thobia, Catherine was now given by Providence a new lowly object of affection and interest. For it was doubtless in the late spring of 1505 that occurred the incident, of which we have the beautifully simple and naïf record in Chapter XLVI of the Vita; a record certainly based upon information supplied by Argentina, but which I take to be the literary work of Vernazza, and to be more or less contemporary with the events described. A humble young friend or acquaintance of Catherine’s, who had perhaps already been her occasional little day-servant, one Argentina de Ripalta, had now been away from her and married, for a year, to a poor navvy working in the Molo (Quay) quarter of the town; and this her husband, Marco del Sale, was now dangerously ill, indeed he was dying of a cancer in the face. And, having tried every kind of remedy, and seeing himself incurable, and being thus in great and hopeless pain, Marco had lost all patience and was as one beside himself. And then Argentina bethought herself of Catherine, and came to the Hospital, and begged her to come and see her husband, and pray to God for him.

And Catherine was at once at Argentina’s disposal, and straightway went off with her. And having come into Marc[170]o’s room, she greatly comforted him with her few but homely and fervent words. Then starting off again in company with Argentina, Catherine entered, near to the house and still close to the sea, into the little Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie la Vecchia,—so called to distinguish it from the more recent Chapel of the Augustinianesses, which bore the same general title,—and there, kneeling in a corner, Catherine prayed for Marco. The little seamen’s Church is still in use, with its many mementoes of four centuries and more of ships foundered and of ships safely come to port. And having here finished her prayer, Catherine returned with Argentina to the Hospital. There Argentina left her, and returned to Marco, and found him so changed that from a Devil he seemed turned into an Angel. And with joyous tender feeling he asked: “O Argentina, come, tell me who is that holy soul that you brought me?” But Argentina answered: “Why, that is Madonna Caterinetta Adorna, a woman of most perfect life.” And the sick man replied: “I beg of thee, by the love of God, to take care to bring her here a second time to me.”

And so the next day Argentina returned to the Hospital and told all to Catherine. And Catherine again promptly came back with Argentina. But when Catherine had entered the room and approached the bed, Marco threw his arms round her, and wept for a long space of time. And then, still weeping, but with great relief, he said to her: “Madonna, the reason why I wished you to come is, first to thank you for the kindness you have shown me; and next to ask a favour of you, which I beg you not to refuse me. For when you had left this room, Our Lord Jesus Christ came to me visibly and in the form in which He appeared to the Magdalen in the garden, and gave me His most holy blessing, and pardoned me all my sins, and told me that I should prepare for death, because that I shall go to Him on Ascension-Day. Hence I pray you, most tender Mother, deign to accept Argentina as your spiritual daughter, and to keep her with you constantly. And thou, Argentina, I pray thee, be content with this plan.” They both gladly declared themselves ready and content.

When Catherine had gone away, Marco sent for a certain Augustinian Friar of the Monastery of the Consolation, and carefully confessed his sins and received Holy Communion; and then ordered all his worldly affairs with a notary and with his relations. And he did all this in spite of them all,[171] who thought that his intense pain had driven him off his head, and who kept saying: “Take comfort, Marco, soon you will be well again; there is no occasion as yet for you to attend to these things.”

And the Eve of the Ascension having come round, he again sent for the same Confessor, and again confessed and communicated, and got him this time to add Extreme Unction and the Recommendation of the Dying, and all this with great composure and devotion. But as the night came on, he said to the Friar: “Return to your Monastery; and when the time comes, I will give you notice.” And then, alone with Argentina, he took his crucifix in his hand, and turning towards his wife he said: “Argentina, see, I leave thee Him for thy husband; prepare thyself to suffer, for I declare to thee that suffering is in store for thee.” This did not fail to come about, for she suffered later on, both mentally and physically. And for the rest of the night he continued to comfort her, and to encourage her to give herself to God and to accept suffering as the ladder for mounting up to Heaven. Then when the dawn had come he said: “Argentina, abide with God; the hour has come.” And having finished these words, he expired; and his spirit straightway went to the window of the cell of his Confessor, and tapping against the pane said: “Ecce homo.” But the Friar hearing this, at once knew that Marco had passed to his Lord.

And as soon as Marco’s body had been buried, Catherine took Argentina to live with her as her spiritual daughter, and thus kept her promise. And since she loved this daughter much, she was wont to take her with her when she went out. And hence one day, when once more passing by the little Church on the little square by the Quay, she and her young daughter again went in and prayed. And on coming out, Catherine said to Argentina: “This is the place, where grace was gained in prayer for thy husband.”[151]


6. Catherine’s social interests in 1506.

And in the following year, 1506, we still find Catherine full of interest and activity of the most varied kind. On March the 13th and 16th Catherine was again busy for the Hospital, by receiving the Foundlings and the various articles and monies anonymously deposited there for their keep. And these can hardly have been altogether exceptional acts, even for this period of her life.[152] And on the 21st of May she made her third Will, which is interesting for various reasons. For it is in this document that we first hear of the deaths of her two elder brothers and of Thobia, and (by implication) of that of her sister Limbania and of her second niece Battista. And we can once more trace here the continuity of her interests and attachments. Her elder niece Maria is again provided with a marriage dowry; her brother Lorenzo remains (now sole) residuary legatee; Thobia’s mother gets her legacy compounded for an immediate settlement and payment; the maids Benedetta and Mariola have their legacies somewhat increased; the “Maestà” is again carefully described and allotted; and she again orders her body to be buried alongside of that of her husband.[153] Indeed fresh interests appear here. For the three sons of her second brother and the eldest son of her third brother are now grown up; and so she makes these four nephews her residuary legatees, should her brother Lorenzo die before herself. Don Marabotto has now been her Confessor and Chaplain for seven, and her Almoner for three years; and so she leaves him the income of eight shares of St. George’s for his lifetime, which, at 4 per cent. would make[173] £16 a year,—the capital to go, at Marabotto’s death, to her heirs. And Argentina del Sale has been with her for just about a year; and so she leaves her various articles of personal linen and bedding.[154]

But, above all, the place of this Will’s redaction is new amongst the memorials of her life, and directly indicative of a still further enlargement of her influence and interests. For if of the fourteen legal documents drawn up for, and in the presence of, Giuliano or herself, eleven were composed in the small house within the great Hospital of the Pammatone, and only two others,—the Marriage-Settlement, and the Deed of Transfer in favour of Giovanni Adorno,—had hitherto been written elsewhere, this Will was executed in the Refuge for Incurables, in the Portorio quarter, in the evening of the day mentioned, in the presence of three weavers and one dyer,—two trades strongly represented in this poor and populous quarter. Now the choice of this place is deeply suggestive, because it became the chief care and final home of Ettore Vernazza’s later years. Indeed it is certain that, on the death of his wife, Vernazza came and lived in the midst of these poor Incurables; and that this residence here of Catherine’s closest friend did not begin later than three years from this date—hence still during Catherine’s lifetime, in 1509. His far-reaching Wills of 1512 and 1517 are both dated from this Refuge, of which he was, by then, manager and chief supporter; and it is there that he died his heroic death in 1524. Hence it is certain that now already Vernazza must have been deeply interested in this fine, but at that time still languishing, work (its fixed income did not as yet amount to fully £400 a year), and he must often have been there; possibly he had even already a room of his own in the house.

There can, in any case, be no doubt, that in the choice of this place for the drawing-up of this Will, we have an indication,[174] all the more interesting because entirely incidental, of the wide and ever-widening range, and of the entirely solid, indeed heroic character of Catherine’s interest and influence. It also shows us that she was still able to get about, although this Refuge, now the Spedale dei Chronici, is, no doubt, not far away from her Pammatone home. If she could still go there, she no doubt still could and did go to her cousin Suor Tommasina’s Convent, which was certainly no further off. And I surmise that many a spiritual colloquy will have taken place, with Catherine as chief interlocutor, and Suor Tommasina and Ettore Vernazza as chief questioners and listeners, in the parlour of San Domenico and in that of the Refuge respectively.



I. Catherine’s External Interests and Activities up to May 1510. Occasional Slight Deviations from her Old Balance. Immensely Close Interconnection of her whole Mental and Psycho-Physical Nature. Impressions as connected with the Five Senses.

1. Indications of external interests.

Even during the next four years, up to May 1510, we still find various most authentic and clear indications of external interests and activities in Catherine’s life. Thus, on the 21st June 1507, the Protectors of the Hospital address a letter to Don Giacobo Carenzio (who had, as they tell him, been elected Master—Rettore—already fifteen months previously), urging him to come and take up his post; and Catherine, who, as we shall see, was later on variously helped by this Priest, and who cared so much for the Hospital, cannot have remained indifferent to that first election and to this present reminder.

Again on the 6th December 1507, the Protectors, Lorenzo Spinola, Manfredo Fornari, and Emmanuele Fiesco, met in Catherine’s room, and decided, no doubt with her advice and co-operation, to allow another widow-lady and devotee of the Hospital, Brigidina, wife of the late Giacomo Castagneto, to settle within its precincts.[155] Then on 27th November 1508 she makes a Codicil, leaving an additional £25 to Mariola, and a further article of dress to Argentina; and declaring that she is “entirely content” with Don Marabotto’s administration of her monies and charities. Don Cattaneo has then now become her Almoner, and her charitable activity continues large. The document is drawn up by Ettore Vernazza,[176] an unimpeachable witness to Marabotto’s rectitude and exactness.[156]

Indeed as late down as 18th March 1509 her long Will of that date shows an admirable persistence of her old attachment for and interest in her surviving brother, niece (the provision for Maria’s possible marriage is particularly careful and detailed), and nephews (the youngest of the latter, Giovanni, is omitted, no doubt because he had now become a Cardinal, with a corresponding income); in Don Marabotto, who retains the same little pension; in her three maids Benedetta, Mariola, and Argentina, all of whose legacies get somewhat increased; and in the fortunes of the Hospital and of Thobia’s mother (she repeats her account of what she has already done for them).[157]

2. Occasional imperfection of judgment.

Yet now at last we can find symptoms of the final break-up of her health, and of an occasional slight or momentary deviation from, or diminution of, her old completeness of balance in both judgment, taste, and feeling,—although even now this occurs only in matters of relatively secondary importance, and but heightens the impressiveness of the still unbroken front which she maintains, in all her fully deliberate acts, with regard to all essential matters. Indeed, it is not difficult to feel, even where one cannot directly trace, in all such acts and matters, a still further deepening of the heroic watchfulness and childlike spontaneity, and of the humility and tender naïveté and creatureliness, of her general tone and attitude.

3. Close-knittedness of her psycho-physical organism: her spiritual utilization of this.

But before recounting the few instances in which we can trace an indication of partly physical depression, or of some lessening of mental alertness or volitional power in secondary matters, or of slight passing unwilled maladif impressions, let us attempt a somewhat methodic description of the extreme sensitiveness and immensely close interconnection of her whole psycho-physical nature, and of the general modifications, both in quality and in quantity, which these impressions were wont to go through; and all this, just now,[177] on occasion of incidents closely similar to those already experienced in her past life.

It would indeed be altogether mistaken to class all this sensitiveness as necessarily but a form of illness; for the great majority, and all the most characteristic, of her apparently physical pains and troubles, are but varieties and heightenings of the always unusually swift and profound impressionableness of her whole psycho-physical organism. With the sole exception of that attack of pestilential fever (probably in the year 1493), I can nowhere, right up to three days before her death, find any trace in her life of illnesses or disturbances of any but a psycho-physical, nerve-functional type.

Indeed her psychic self is throughout so impressionable, and the mind is, ever since her Conversion, so active, dominant, and absorbed in the actual and attempted apprehension of the great realities which, though invisible, require for their vivid apprehension an imaginative pictorial embodiment: that we shall have, in a later chapter, to ask ourselves the question whether it was not the mind, or the imagination at the mind’s bidding, which thus affected the psycho-physical life, rather than the psycho-physical life which, primarily independent of the former, offered itself as but so much raw, still unrelated material, to the fashioning, transforming mind. Especially will it be necessary to consider carefully the influence upon her mind, and upon the chronicler’s accounts of her state, which may have been exercised by the writings of the Areopagite and of Jacopone. It will then become clear that these authors have undoubtedly contributed to the form in which these truths and realities were, if not actually apprehended by Catherine, at least described by her disciples.

Yet even this point remains, in Catherine’s case, (and indeed in that of all the great Saints,) of no real spiritual or moral importance, since all these great and generous souls persist in ever using these psycho-physical things, whether they be projections or “givennesses,” as but so many instruments and materials for the apprehension, illustration, acquisition, and purification of spiritual truth and of the spirit’s own fulness and depth. And Catherine’s persistence in this attitude of utilization and transcendence of what the natural man so continuously tends to make his direct aim and final limit continues practically unbroken to the end. I will group these psychic impressions according to the five senses.


4. Impressions connected with the sense of touch.

The earliest, and up to the end the most marked and general, of all such unusual impressions appears to have been one connected with the sense of touch,—that feeling of mostly interior, but later on also of exterior, warmth, indeed often of intense heat and burning, which comes to her, the first as though sunshine were bathing her within or without, the second sometimes as though a great fire were enveloping her, and sometimes as though a living flame were piercing her within.

Already in 1473, on occasion of her Conversion, we find unmistakable indications of such sensations; they are, however, of a predominantly pleasurable kind. And I take it that during her great lonely middle-period they will, in so much as present, have been of a similar nature. But later on, from after 1499 onwards, these sensations and attacks become increasingly painful,[158] and are specially described, and variously alluded to, under the terms of operation, assault, siege. When specially keen and concentrated, and accompanied by some piercing psycho-spiritual perception, they appear under the terms of arrow, wound; and the perception itself bears then the name of ray or spark (of divine love).[159]

Now we lookers-on can, of course, with more or less ease, mentally separate, in a general way, the latter, the spiritual apprehension, creation and content, from the former, the psycho-physical occasion, material and form; although it is certainly difficult, and probably impossible, to decide, at least in any one case, how far it is her mental activity that occasions her psycho-physical condition, or how far it is the latter which occasions the former. But what actually and demonstrably happened in Catherine’s case, was something incomparably beyond the range to which such psycho-physical considerations apply. For to her, psychically, a keenly sentient; rationally, a deeply thinking, feeling, and willing creature,—these experiences,[179] howsoever classable, were most real, and, in course of time, more and more penetrating and painful; and they were, to her own consciousness, entirely prior to any interpretation or utilization of them. Hence, for the present at all events, we had better take these states as they presented themselves to her immediate and ordinary consciousness. And this very same immensely sentient soul was so firmly centred, deep down below and beyond the psycho-physical, in the Moral and Spiritual, that these experiences were welcomed and actively used but as so many means and materials for ethical purification and character-building, and for the analogical apprehension and illustration of spiritual truths.

Thus it is that these sensations of burning which, during her years of health, were themselves so pleasurable and peaceful, helped, as we shall find when we come to consider her doctrine, to suggest and illustrate for her the joys and health-giving influence of the presence of God, both here and in Paradise, and of the soul’s apprehension of God, as light for the understanding and warmth for the affections and the will. And when, with her failing health, these sensations turned into painful, in part seemingly physical attacks,—attacks which, however, left the mind in an increased and ever-increasing peace and contentment,—they again helped her to gain and develop her doctrine concerning Purgatory.

In both cases her teaching gained thus a vividness of quasi-directly sensible experience, of something in a manner actually seen and felt, since it was built up out of suggestions derived from direct sensations and psycho-physical states. And yet in both cases not all such sensations, of themselves quite valueless and uninstructive from an ethical and religious point of view, could have helped towards anything of spiritual significance, had they not been sifted, taken up, organized and transformed in and into a large and deep spiritual experience and personality. There is absolutely nothing automatic or necessary in the crowning, ethically significant stages of this whole process, however rapid and instinctive and effortless, and simply of a piece with the psycho-physical occasions, these utilizations and grace-impelled and grace-informed creations may appear. We shall, in proof of this, soon see how physical and literal and spiritually insignificant remained, during the last four months of her life, the apprehensions of her disciples as to these heats and piercing sensations: these good, indeed devoted, people seem incapable of measuring[180] spiritual love by anything higher than thermometer-readings or other physical tangibilities. And we shall also have to record one or two momentary instances when this heat-feeling and apprehension clearly assumed a maladif character in Catherine herself.

5. Impressions connected with taste and smell.

The unusual sense-perceptions which were the next to be aroused were apparently those of taste and smell: although the one certain indication I can find of such an unusual psycho-physical taste-and-smell impression, of a pleasurable and not clearly maladif character, is not earlier than 1499.[160] It came to her in connection with the one great devotion of her whole convert life,—the Holy Eucharist. “Having on one occasion received Holy Communion, so much odour and sweetness came to her, that she seemed to be in Paradise. Whence, feeling this, she straightway turned towards her Love and said: ‘O Love, dost Thou perhaps intend to draw me to Thyself with these savours? I want them not, since I want nothing but Thee alone, and all of Thee.’”[161] Here, then, she turns away from and transcends, precisely as St. John of the Cross was soon to insist so strongly that we should do, the sensible and immediate, and reaches on to the spiritual, ultimate, and personal. And similarly some such psycho-physical experience seems presupposed in her declaration: “If a Consecrated Host and unconsecrated ones were to be given to me, I should distinguish the former from the latter as I do wine from water.”[162] Yet her biographer can truthfully insist upon love being the original cause of such recognition: “She said this, because the Consecrated Host sent forth a certain ray of love which pierced her heart.” And she herself gives a still more spiritual parallel instance and explanation of such recognition:[181] “If I were to be shown the Court of Heaven, with all its members robed in one and the same manner, in suchwise that there would, so far, be no perceptible difference between God and the Angels: the love which I have in my heart would still recognize God, as readily as the dog recognizes his master.” This love indeed would move out to Him even more swiftly and easily, because “love, which is God Himself, finds in an instant, without any means, its own end and ultimate repose.”[163]

Clearly maladif over-sensitiveness and shiftingness of the senses of taste and scent will appear presently, during the last months of her life.

6. Hearing and Sight.

The most important and mental of the senses, hearing and sight, appear, on the contrary, with little or nothing particularly unusual about them, throughout her life.

For as to her sense of hearing, the inner voices already described as heard by her at different times, cannot fairly be classed under this or any other sense-perception, healthy or otherwise; since they appear to have been most vivid and clear thoughts presented to her mind, with in each case the consciousness that they were the suggestions of Mind,—of a Spirit other than her own. They appear to have always been described by herself as “words spoken to the mind,” “words as it were heard.”[164] Traces of any maladif affection of this sense will be difficult or impossible to find, even during her last illness.

And as to sight, always so closely akin to mental processes, anything at all really exceptional cannot, I think, be found in her life so far at all. For her evidently great impressionableness to certain religious pictures,—so as a child, in regard to the “Pietà,” and now again apparently with the “Maestà,”—and to certain sights of nature, cannot fairly be considered abnormal. And as to Visions, the only one recorded so far, that of the Bleeding Christ, was primarily a mentally mediated experience: “the Lord showed Himself to her in the spirit,” says the account, no doubt in full accordance with her own analysis of such experiences.[165] Some few disturbances of this sense will, however, appear during the course of her last illness.


II. More or Less Maladif Experiences and Actions.

The amplest proof of the deep and delicate impressionableness of her nature is probably, however, to be found in that profound melancholy, that positive disgust with everything within her and without, and that strong desire for death which we found to have possessed her during the three months previous to her Conversion in March 1473. For we should note that that melancholy did not directly spring from spiritual motives or considerations: it was previous to all definite sorrow for sin and to all full and willed sense of things religious and eternal. Indeed, with the appearance of the religious standards and certitudes, that crushing universal feeling of melancholy and of positive disgust breaks up, and yields to contrasted joys and sorrows, and to a buoyant energy in the very midst and through the very means of suffering and of sacrifice. Thus the dawn of her spiritual re-birth was indeed dark and oppressive; but this oppression did not directly proceed from any clear consciousness of the Perfect and Eternal which arose within her only as part and parcel of this explicit Conversion. The oppression simply indicated, of itself, a nature so sensitive and claimful, as to require, in order to achieve any degree of contentment, a spiritual, regenerative, re-interpretative power capable of responding to and matching the deepest realities of life. That nature was thus full of the need of such realities and of such contact with them, but was without the power of producing, or of adequately responding to, such realities,—or indeed of imaginatively forecasting them. And similarly in 1507, the dawn of her painful, joyful-sorrowful birthday to eternity was again dark and oppressive and productive of an intense desire for death, a desire which had, apparently, been entirely absent from her soul ever since 1473. Here again this oppression was not directly religious or moral, but, taken in itself, was simply psycho-physical. Indeed this oppression marks the beginning of the special limitations, difficulties, and slightly deflecting influences now introduced into her life by henceforth steadily increasing positive illness. I propose, then, to begin with this opening depression of hers, and next to go through the main incidents of her remaining life, as far as possible, in strictly chronological[183] order. I will group all this around six main facts and dates.

1. Desire for death, 1507.

“In the year 1507 she on one occasion was present at the recitation of the Offices for the Dead. And a desire to die came upon her. And she said: ‘O Love, I desire nothing but Thee, and Thee in Thine own manner: but, if it pleases Thee, allow me at least to go and see others die and be buried, in order that I may see in others that great good, which it does not please Thee should as yet be in myself.’ And her Love consented to this; and consequently, for a certain space of time, she went to see die and be buried all those who died in the Hospital. And as, later on, her union with this her tender Love increased, her desire for death disappeared little by little.”[166]

She is, then, still active, and moves about in the spacious Hospital and in the adjoining Church. And this desire, as it gradually disappeared, will, doubtless, not have left mere blanks in her consciousness, or have reduced the sum-total of her feelings; but, with that diminution, some of her old tenderness for and interest in others, will have reappeared. And again we see how no one set of feelings, one “psychosis,” ever simply repeats itself, in even one and the same soul: for Catherine’s positive disgust with all things, which prepared and accompanied her desire for death in 1473, is absent from the otherwise similar desire of 1507. In both cases there is the same sheer “givenness” and isolation of the feeling. Then, she did not desire death to escape temptation or sin; now, she does not desire it, directly and within her emotional nature, in order to get to God: in each case the feeling stands simply by itself, and is not immediately connected with religion at all. And finally, this incident, and its later equivalent repetitions in November 1509 and September 1510, prove once again on what a veritable bed of Procrustes those determined a-priorists, the Redactors of the Vita, have[184] placed, pulled about and mutilated, as far as in them lay, the immensely spontaneous and rich personality of Catherine, in their determination to find her ever all-perfect, and perfect after their own fixed pattern. For it proves to demonstration, either that Catherine continued liable to human imperfections, or that not all desires are imperfect. And both these things are true, beyond the possibility of doubt.

2. The scent-impression from Don Cattaneo’s hand.

And next we get an instance of clearly abnormal sense-perception, which is deeply interesting because of the vivid, first-hand form in which the fact has come down to us, and still more on account of its impressive illustration of the two possible mental attitudes towards such matters. It will have occurred in 1508; and Don Marabotto is, in any case, the other interlocutor in the scene, and its chronicler. And if there is undoubtedly a somewhat ludicrous naïveté about his attitude at the time of the occurrence, there is also a striking simplicity and self-oblivion in the perfectly objective manner in which he chronicles the scene in all its bearings, and Catherine’s marked superiority to himself. It is this complete directness and simplicity of motive which, on the side of character, will have bound these otherwise strangely diverse souls together; and which rendered Don Marabotto, even simply as a character, not unworthy of his close intimacy with Catherine.

The abnormality here concerns the sense of smell alone; the impression here lasts a considerable time: and now she acquiesces in it, but only for the purpose of moving through it, as a mere means. “Having been infirm for many days, Catherine one day took the hand of her Confessor and smelt it: and its odour penetrated right to her heart,” so that “for many days this perfume restored and nourished her, body and soul.” Don Marabotto then asks her what kind of thing this odour is that she is smelling. And she tells him that it is an odour so penetrating and sweet, as to seem capable of bringing the dead to life; that God had sent it to her, to strengthen her soul and body, now that these were so much oppressed; and hence “since God grants me this odour, I am determined to derive strength from it, as long as He shall please that I shall do so.” But Marabotto, “thinking that he must surely be able to perceive what was being transmitted by himself, went smelling his own hand, but to no effect.” And Catherine gently rebuked his action by declaring:[185] “The things which depend entirely upon God’s own free gift, He does not give to those that seek them. Indeed He gives such things at all, only in cases of great necessity, and as an occasion of great spiritual profit.”[167]

The impression and consolation are here still connected with the Holy Eucharist: for the hand which she smells is no doubt the right one,—the hand which was wont daily to consecrate in her presence and daily to communicate her. The declaration as to the odour’s power to raise the dead to life has occurred already in connection with the Holy Eucharist, and will have been in part suggested to her by such Johannine passages as “I am the … Life,” “I am the Living Bread,” “he that eateth this Bread shall live,” shall be made to live, “for ever.” And although the odour is here the prominent impression, and “savours” are wanting, yet “sweetness” still occurs, probably as a sort of sensation of tasting.—Marabotto’s mind has in it, on this occasion, two plausible assumptions, each strengthening the other; and Catherine controverts both. He evidently thinks: “Catherine’s states are all most valuable, hence real, hence objective: if then she says she smells this or that, others will be able to do so too.” And: “What a man transmits, that he can himself experience: hence, on this ground also, I should be able to smell this perfume.”—And Catherine’s mind evidently also contains two very different convictions: the first, that experiences, even when thus but semi-spiritual, are, for all their reality, not directly transferable from soul to soul; and the second, that all such sensible and semi-sensible experiences, whether normal or exceptional, are all but means at the disposal of the free-willing spirit, means which become limits and obstacles as soon as they are treated as ends.

Thus if this experience points to a certain abnormality of condition in the peripheral, psycho-physical regions of the soul, Catherine’s attitude towards it, and towards the whole question occasioned by it, has got a massive depth of sanity about it, perhaps unattainable by, certainly untested in, the always and simply, even peripherally, healthy soul.

3. Shifting of her burial-place.

And in her Will of March 1509 we find traces of a[186] certain weakening of her former ample business capacity, and of her vigilance, perseverance, and balance, in spite of friendly pressure or criticism, with regard to matters of practical import. For, as to her general incapacity for business, the Will contains a clause exempting Marabotto from all future challenge of his administration of her monies, up to the date of the making of this Will. And this clause finds its explanation in the admission of the Vita, with regard to her life during these last years, that, owing to the mysterious and shifting nature of her infirmity, “there was confusion in governing her,” “confusion not on her own part, but on that of those who served her,”[168] words which will grow still clearer in our account of her last four months. For this state of her health must have rendered the administration of her affairs by another both necessary and difficult. And as to the diminution of her vigilance and perseverance in matters of not directly spiritual or moral import, we have here, for the first time, a departure from her resolution, emphatically expressed in the Wills and Codicil of 1498, 1503, 1506, of being buried beside her husband. She now orders herself to be buried in the Church of San Nicolò in Boschetto, and that so much is to be spent on the funeral as shall seem fit to Don Marabotto.

Three points should here be borne in mind. For one thing, Catherine had a long-standing affection for that beautifully situated Pilgrimage-Church, partly no doubt from associations dating back to her summer villegiatura days at the neighbouring Prà, and partly, probably, from memories connected with her sister Limbania, since, as we have already seen, Limbania’s Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie was the joint foundation of the two Genoese Monasteries of San Teodoro fuore le Mura and of San Nicolò in Boschetto. Limbania had died in that Convent in 1502, and Catherine had, in her Codicil of 1503, left a small sum for mortuary Masses for herself to the Monastery of San Nicolò.

But, next, it was doubtless the growing conviction as to her sanctity amongst her immediate friends, and their desire to keep her grave and remains, as an eventual place and object of veneration, distinct from any others, perhaps specially from those of her husband, whose defective reputation might otherwise damage or delay the growth of such a cultus of his wife, which was the determining cause of this change in the place[187] of sepulture. These friends were able to prevail, no doubt because her interest and determination in such matters had become weakened by ill-health of now thirteen years’ duration. And they will have fixed upon this place some four English miles away, partly because it happened to be one she loved, but also because thus no question of separating her remains from those of Giuliano would formally arise. Her later Codicil will prove the presence of both these motives, and Catherine’s unconsciousness as to the situation, and the vagueness of her acquiescence.

And, finally, we must note that, if this action of her entourage offends our present-day tastes and susceptibilities, it was yet thoroughly in accordance with a quite hoary tradition and feeling in such matters, and was in no sense an idea special to, or originated by, this group of persons; and again, that the four Protectors of the Hospital (the trustees and executors of the Will), her sole surviving brother Lorenzo (the residuary legatee), and above all her closest, great-souled friend Vernazza (one of the six witnesses), are all parties to the pious stratagem, and share its responsibility with Marabatto.

4. The “scintilla”-experience; spiritual refreshment derived from a picture.

We have next an important group of experiences and convictions in November 1509. “On the 11th November 1509, there came upon her an insupportable fire of infinite love; and she declared that there had been shown to her one single spark (scintilla) of Pure Love, and that this had been but for a short moment; and that, had it lasted even a little longer, she would have expired because of its great force. She could hardly eat, nor speak so as to be heard, in consequence of this penetrating wound of love that she had received in her heart.”[169]

Few events of her life have left such profound traces, so[188] many echoes and waves and wavelets as it were, throughout both her authentic sayings and the various secondary and tertiary imitations, re-castings, and expansions of her original account as has this scintilla-experience. I will here translate the nine varying impressions and exclamations which, proceeding from different minds and different dates, have, all but one, been worked up by the Vita into a single paragraph, which, by its very multitude of flickerings as to meaning and of experimentations as to form, gives us a striking picture of the deep and many-sided influence of this single event, so short in its clock-time duration. “This creature, all lost in her own self, found her true self in one instant in God.” “Although she reputed herself to be very poor, yet she remained rich in the divine love.” “She, knowing the grace and operation to be all from God, remained lost in herself, and living only in God.” “She gave her free-will to God, and God then restored it to her.” “She gave her free-will to God, and God thereupon worked with its means.” “O the great wonder, to see a man established in the midst of so many miseries, and yet God having so great a care of him! All tongues are incapable of expressing it, all intellects of understanding it.” “That man becomes foolish in the eyes of the world, to whom Thou, O Lord God, dost manifest even but the slightest spark of Thine unspeakable Love.” “Thou, O God, desirest to exalt man, and to make him as though another God, by means of love.” Of later date or type: “In God she saw all the operations, by means of which He had caused her to merit (in the past).” And of still later, clearly secondary, character: “God showed her in one instant the succession of His (future) operation, as though she would have to die of a great martyrdom.”[170]

And this great experience of hers led on to a scene which, whilst emphasizing the psycho-physical effect, occasion or concomitant of such spiritual experiences, also gives us the strongest instance of her impressionableness to pictures in particular.[189] “Finding herself in such ardour, she felt herself compelled to turn to a figure of the Woman of Samaria at the well with her Lord; and in her extreme distress Catherine addressed Him thus: ‘O Lord, I pray Thee, give me a little drop of this water, which of old Thou didst give to the Samaritan woman, since I can no more bear so great a fire.’ And suddenly, in that instant, there was given her a little drop of that divine water; and by it she was refreshed within and without, and she had rest for some appreciable time.”[171] But, above all, this experience and its precursor were, if not the actual beginning, at least the culminating point in the experiences or projections which led to or articulated her doctrine on Purgatory. In a later chapter I hope to trace the connection between those experiences and this doctrine. Here we must add two other vivid interior experiences and convictions of hers which are placed by the Vita, no doubt rightly, in direct succession to, and in more or less connection with, the great “scintilla”-operation, although neither of them appears amongst the images and conceptions which make up the Trattato del Purgatorio.

“One day” (she recounted this herself) “she appeared to herself to abide suspended in mid-air. And the spiritual part wanted to attach itself to heaven; but her other part wished to attach itself to earth: yet neither the one nor the other managed to become possessed of its object, and simply abode thus in mid-air, without achieving its desire. And after abiding thus for a long time, the part which was drawing her to heaven seemed to her to be gaining the upper hand (over the other part), and, little by little, the spiritual part forcibly drew her upwards, so that at every moment she saw herself moving further and further away from earth. And although this at first seemed to be a strange thing to the part that was being drawn, and this part was ill content to be thus forced; yet when it had been so far removed, as no more to be able to see the earth, then it began to lose its earthly instinct and affection, and to perceive and to relish the things which were relished by the spiritual part. And this spiritual part never ceased from drawing it heavenward. And so at last these two parts came to a common accord.”[172] And again on[190] another occasion: “The soul is so desirous of departing from the body to unite itself with God, that its body appears to it a veritable Purgatory, which keeps it distant from its true object.”[173]

This group of experiences straightway enforces some important spiritual laws. For one thing, this scintilla-experience, since her Conversion the deepest of her life, is clearly also the richest and most complex,—witness the numerous, mutually supplementary or critical, attempts at analysis furnished by even her immediate companions. And this experience is only simple in the sense in which white light, which combines all the prismatic colours, or a living healthy human body, composed of numberless constituents, is simple.

And next, nothing indicates that this experience was of a character essentially different from that of her older contemplations; and everything appears to show that it was, substantially, a grace addressed to, and an act performed by, her spiritual nature,—her intelligence and free will, God’s Spirit stimulating and sustaining hers in a quite exceptional degree, and hence less than ever weakening or supplanting this her spirit’s action. It was as much a gift of herself by herself to God, as if it had not been a pure grace from Him; and yet her very power and wish and determination to give herself, were rendered possible and became actual through that pure prevenient, accompanying and subsequent gift of God.

Again, it is certain that either there was no clear mental scheme, reasoning, or picture during the experience, or that, if there was, it consisted of a spacial simultaneity rather than of a temporal succession, and that it showed her, if her own soul at all, then that soul in its most universally human, typical aspects and relations. In no case was there anything historical or prophetical, strictly biographical about it.

And then we have, even though she could give no kind of definite account of it, the most solid reasons for accepting this experience as genuine, wholesome, and valuable. For she evidently fully believed in it herself; and we shall see how clearly and readily she continued, even after this experience, to distinguish between wholesome and mental, and maladif and simply psychic, states of abstraction. Again it[191] became the occasion and material of most deep and fruitful spiritual doctrine; whereas nothing is more empty and unsuggestive than are the bare, brute “facts” of all merely nervous or hysterical hallucinations. It also demonstrably strengthened her will for the last deep sufferings and sacrifices yet to be gone through, and no doubt added a fresh stimulus to her already profound influence over Vernazza, and pricked him onwards on his career of the most solid, heroic philanthropy and self-sacrifice. And yet we can see that her psycho-physical organism is now functionally weak and ill. For great physical exhaustion now follows upon an experience substantially the same as those which used to strengthen her so markedly even in physical respects.

As to the scene with the picture, we again get a case not unlike the odour of Marabotto’s hand, in so much as here too the experience hovers between the mental and physical, and there is a sensible impression as from a physical substance with reference to a Person,—this taste of a “divine water” moving here on to Christ, to God, the Living Water, as that smell of sweetness moves on to the “Living Bread,” Christ, and God. It is, unfortunately, impossible to identify that picture, which may well have been a fresco-painting in some building or passage of the Hospital, since destroyed, or on some extant wall, white-washed since those days. The vivid picturings of the soul in mid-air, and of the soul in the purgatory of its body, will be considered in connection with her psycho-physical states and her doctrine.

But before leaving this November experience, we must give two significant conversations held by her with Vernazza at the time, and which have been no doubt handed down to us by himself. “One day, speaking of this” (the scintilla-)[192] “event with a spiritual person (Religioso) she called it ‘a giddiness’ (vertigine). But that person said to her: ‘Mother, I beg of you that you will yourself select a person who may happen to suit your mind (soddisfaccia alla mente vestra), and will narrate to this person the graces which God has granted to you, so that, when you come to die, these graces may not remain hidden and unknown, and an opportunity for God’s praise and glory may not thus be lost.’ And she then answered that she was entirely willing (ben contenta), if this be pleasing to her tender Love; and that, in that case, she would not choose another person than himself, although she was convinced that it was impossible to describe even a small fragment of such interior experiences as occurred between God and her soul; and that as to exterior things, few or none had taken place in her case.” Here again we have evidence as to her habit of making light of and transcending all psycho-physical phenomena, however striking and mysterious; and we get a positive authorization conferred by herself upon Vernazza, such as is claimed by no other contributor to the Vita.

And “speaking with him some days later, she said: ‘Son, I have had a certain prick of conscience, of which I will tell you. The other day, when you told me that I might possibly remain dead some day during one of those giddinesses, there seemed to arise in me, at that moment, a feeling of joy, a profound aspiration which said: ”O, if that hour would but come!“ And then this feeling suddenly ceased. Now I declare to you, that I do not wish that in this matter there should be any glimpse (scintilla) of a desire of my own for earth or heaven, or for any other created thing; but that I wish to leave all things to the disposition of God.’ Then this person answered, that there was no occasion for her to have a prick of conscience, because, although joy had awaked in her mind, and a sudden exclamation had occurred there, at the mention of the word ‘death,’ yet that nothing of this had proceeded from the will, nor had it been endorsed by the reason; but that it had proceeded solely from the instinct of the pleasure-loving soul (anima), which ever, according to its nature, tends to such an end. And how the proof that this was a correct account, lay in this, that her prick of conscience had not really penetrated to the depths of her heart, but had remained on the surface, at the same slight depth at which the movement of joy had remained. And she confessed that the matter really stood thus, and remained satisfied.”[174]

Here three points are of interest. I take her impulse of deep longing to die in one of those trances, to have arisen, not simply from joy at the thought of dying, but from joy at the prospect of dying of joy,—of dying with the joy fixed in[193] that moment in the soul for ever. For heaven itself appears here not as a synonym for God, but as a creature, as the summing up of infinite and endless consolation of all right kinds, spiritual and psycho-physical. And it is this that makes her scruple thoroughly understandable, and but one more instance of her virile fight with all direct attachment to the consequences and concomitants of devotedness.—And next we should note her deep trust in the spiritual experience and wisdom of Vernazza, the layman and lawyer, some twenty-five years her junior; and her asking his advice on a matter which we would readily suppose her to reserve for Don Marabotto, who by now had been her Confessor and Spiritual Adviser for many years.—And lastly, the depth and delicacy of Vernazza’s analysis are most striking, with their clear perception of the various levels and degrees of true selfhood and volition within the human soul: she had really had neither a full will, nor a deliberate wish, nor indeed any penetrating, spontaneous reproach of conscience; she had, in fact, been suffering from a scruple, and he was required, and was able, to make her see that this had been the case.

5. Catherine’s sense of intense cold, and her attitude towards Don Marabotto.

And in December 1509 and January 1510 we come across a group of experiences and actions, in some respects different from, and supplementary of, the set just concluded. For “in the month of December she suffered from great cold,”—I take this cold to have been, at least partially, special to her state, and not to have proceeded primarily from the winter temperature,—“but she paid no attention to it.” “And behold one night there came so great an attack (assalto) upon her, that she could not conceal it. There was a great heaving of the body, much bile was evacuated, and the nose bled. And she then sent for her Confessor, and said to him: ‘Father, it seems to me that I must die, because of the many weakenings of various sorts (accidenti) that have happened to me.’” “And this attack (assalto) lasted for about three hours,” “her body trembling like a leaf.” “And then her body became quiet again, but was now so broken and weak that it was necessary to give her minced chicken to revive her; and a good many days had to pass before she returned to her (latter-day) vigour.”[175]


And “on the 10th of January 1510, she appeared determined to see her Confessor no more, either as to help and comfort for her soul or as to her bodily health. It seemed to her that he was too indulgent to herself, in her sayings and doings. But the fact was, that he saw it to be necessary that she should do all that her instinct prompted her to say or do; and it would indeed have been well-nigh impossible to force her to act against these interior movements of hers. Yet since she was herself in cause, she did not acknowledge such necessities (ordinazioni); rather these actions of hers appeared to her but as so many disordered doings, and she went forcing herself to try and not give trouble to those who were good enough to put up with her (chi la comportava).—And when night came, she locked herself up alone into a separate room, refusing food or conversation or comfort from any one. But after a while she had to come out, with a view to rendering a certain service, and her Confessor managed to slip into the room unobserved and to hide himself there. And she, having returned and locked herself in, and thinking herself quite alone, said with a sobbing voice to her Lord: ‘O Lord, what wouldest Thou have me do further in this world? I neither see nor hear, nor eat nor sleep; I do not know what I do or what I say. I feel as though I were a dead thing. There is no creature that understands me; I find myself lonely, unknown, poor, naked, strange, and different from the rest of the world; and hence I know not any more how to live with (my fellow-) creatures upon earth.’ These and such-like words she spoke so piteously, that her Confessor could bear it no longer; and he discovered himself, and came up to and spoke to her. And God gave him grace, so that she remained comforted in mind and body by his words, and was in fair health for a good many days after.”[176]

Nevertheless “her Confessor, since his continual intercourse and close familiarity with Catherine gave occasion to murmurs on the part of some who did not fully understand his special work and its necessity, left her and was absent for three days” (probably shortly after the scene just related),[195] “for the purpose of testing that work of his, and seeing whether it was indeed all from God, and thus to escape all scruple in the matter. But when, three days later, he returned to her house and had learnt and considered the various accidents and incidents which had occurred meanwhile, he was so entirely satisfied with the evidence afforded by experiment, that he lost all scruple in the matter, and indeed regretted having made the trial, because of the great distress which she had suffered from it.” It will have been on this occasion that she said to him: “I seem to see that God has given to you this one care of myself, and hence that you should not attend to anything else. For now I can no longer support alone so many exterior and interior oppressions (assedi). When you leave me, I go lamenting about the house, saying that you are cruel and do not understand my extreme necessity; for if you did, you would pay greater attention to it.”[177]

And it will have been later on again, in February and March, that she intimated, during two of her violent attacks (on the first occasion by signs, on the second by words), her impression that she would succumb, and her wish to receive Extreme Unction. But Don Marabotto correctly judged that she would safely get through these seizures, and the anointing was put off for the present.[178]

This group is again interesting. For it gives us evidence as to how dependent this character and career of the rarest loneliness and independence had now become upon human help and sympathy; and lets us see how illness had now introduced an excessive suddenness, absoluteness, and shiftingness into her feelings and minor actions, and an occasional slight querulousness into her remarks. It shows us her old social, altruistic instincts and standard still at work within her; for she still suffers from the consciousness, whenever she is thrown back upon herself, of being different from other people; she still longs to attend to the wants of others, regrets the trouble she gives them, and feels grateful for the services they render; and she still busies herself, in the reduced measure now[196] possible to her, with services of her own to others,—a “certain service,” which she had to render, had sufficed to break through her self-imposed seclusion. It lets us see how watchful against and suspicious of self, and of what could flatter and indulge it, she still remained; and how independent her judgment continued, even with regard to her Confessor. And this her judgment we shall have good reason to hold to have been remarkably well-grounded, in so far as this, that had only Marabotto possessed a deeper insight into her psycho-physical state and less of a determination to treat all her states and impulses as equally solid and spiritual, or at least as equally to be yielded to, he could have helped her more; and she would then, thus helped, have been able, even now, fully to resist or to give way, in proportion to the healthiness or the morbidness of the attack. And finally we see how truly serviceable and necessary, and indeed repeatedly right where her own estimate was wrong, was the help and sympathy and judgment of her Confessor; and how difficult, entirely unselfish, and devoted was his action and attitude. It is interesting to note that Catherine was probably always right in her instinct as to matters directly affecting herself, where the will came in, or could be made to come in; and that she was wrong only in such a point of mere physical fact and determinism as whether or not, and how long, her physical strength would hold out.

6. Events from January to May 1510.

I will here try and put together, in their actual succession from January to May 1510, the chief psycho-physical phenomena and their parallel utilizations, together with such mental and spiritual experiences and actions as seem to have been only quite indirectly, or not all, occasioned by her state of health. In a later chapter I propose to study all this health matter in some detail. Here I would simply warn the reader against treating, with certainly most of her chroniclers, these psycho-physical phenomena as separately and directly spiritual or miraculous or ethically significant. Found alone, they would now, on the contrary, directly suggest simply nervous disorder of some kind or other, a thing which, in itself, is always an evil. Their interest and spiritual importance arises for us entirely from their predominantly mental qualities; from their appearance in a person of such powerful mind and large and efficient character; and from their splendidly ethico-religious utilization by that same person.


On one day “she had an impression (‘wound,’ ferita) which was so great, that she lost her speech and sight, and abode in this manner some three hours. She made signs with her hands, of feeling as it were red-hot pincers attacking her heart and other interior parts. But for all this, she did not lose her full consciousness (intelletto).” This was the second occasion on which she indicated her wish to be anointed.[179] On another day “it was impossible to keep her in bed: she seemed like a creature placed in a great flame of fire, and it was impossible to touch her skin, because of the acute pain which she felt from any such touch.”[180]

A little later on “she abode in so great a peace and interior contentment that she was” in all respects “considerably relieved and reinvigorated (ristorata). But she did not long remain in this condition. For very soon she was in a state of interior nudity and aridity, and she prayed: ‘Never hitherto, O my Lord, have I asked Thee for anything for myself: now I pray Thee with all my might, that Thou mayest not will to separate me from Thee. Thou well knowest, O Lord, that I could not bear this.’ And to her disciples she said, in connection with this desolation: ‘If a man were to take a soul from Paradise, how do you think such a soul would feel? You might give it all the pleasures in the world, and as much more as you can imagine: and yet all would be but Hell, because of the memory of that divine union’ (formerly possessed and now lost).”[181]

Again a little later on “she had another attack (assalto), when all her body trembled, especially her right shoulder. It was impossible to move her from her bed; she did not eat, drank next to nothing, and did not sleep.”[182] On another day,[198] “she had another attack,”—this was the occasion of her third indication of a wish to receive Extreme Unction,—“a spasm in the throat and mouth, so that she could not speak, nor open her eyes, nor keep her breath except with extreme difficulty.” “They applied cupping-glasses, with a view to aiding her to find her breath and to regain speech, yet these helped but little.”[183] For another day we are told that “in her flesh were certain concavities, as though it were dough, and the thumb had been pressed into it. And she called out in a loud voice, because of the great pain.”[184]

On another day “her pains made her call out as loudly as she could, and she dragged herself about on her bed. And those that stood by were dumfounded, at seeing a body, which appeared to be healthy, in such a tormented state. And then she would laugh, speak as one in health, and say to the others, not to be sorrowful on her account, since she was very contented. And this “set of attacks” lasted four days; she then had a little rest; and, after this, those attacks returned as before.”[185]

This group is in so far particularly difficult, as we have to try and decide whether, and if so how far, these pains of hers were primarily psychical, and, in some way and degree, originally, and by force of long habits of concentrated religious thinking and picturing, suggested, or at least stimulated, by the mind itself; or whether these pains were primarily physical, although evidently only functional and preponderantly nervous. For on the answer to that question depends, if[199] not our selection from amongst, at least our interpretation of, the largely contradictory, successively “doctored,” and more or less violently schematized evidence, of which the above passages give the most characteristic and primitive parts. If it was the mind itself which, unconsciously to its owner, suggested these pains, then we can and must accept, as quite contemporary and indeed fully exact, those passages which make her peace and even sensible consolation arise during the same moments as, and in exact proportion to, the presence of the pains. If, on the other hand, the pains arose independently of the subconscious mind, and were merely mastered by the conscious intelligence and will, then it seems reasonable to assume that we have here, as is certainly the case in other matters and places in the Vita, an ideal foreshortening, juxtaposition, and unification of what, in the actual experience, occurred more lengthily and successively.

It is certainly remarkable in this connection, that, whereas we have had a clearly marked case of mental, spiritual desolation, outside of one of these attacks, it is at least very difficult to find anything certainly of the kind during one of them; indeed the juxtaposition of, not simply profound spiritual peace, but of sensible, also psychic or quasi-psychic, consolation with those pains, is so constant and apparently spontaneous, that secondary, or at least schematic and a priori, reporting seems to have been at work rather in the passages which affirm the excessiveness of those pains, than in those which insist that those pains were, so to speak, not pains. All her own authentic sayings leave the impression of immense psycho-spiritual sensitiveness, of much actual mental and emotional suffering as well as joy, but not, I think, of purely physical suffering. “I find so much contentment on the part of my spirit and so much peace in my mind, that tongue could not tell nor reason comprehend it; but on the part of my humanity” (her psycho-physical organism) “all my pains are, so to say, not pains,” she says, shortly after a particularly violent attack, with four “accidents.” And a contributor declares that the joy and the torment ever arose together. It is true that another passage says that, during such attacks, “her disciples, seeing her suffer so much, desired that she should expire, so as no more to have to see her in such great and continuous torment”; but then this desire of theirs was evidently rather a sympathetic feeling than a deliberate judgment, for, once[200] she has got over the attack, all this desire of theirs disappears as rapidly as it had come.[186]

III. Catherine’s History from May to September 9, 1510.

1. Catherine and the Physicians.

It is at the end of the preceding months that we are told how “the Physician” (possibly the Hospital House-Surgeon) “attempted to administer medicine to her. But it gave rise to such repeated ‘accidents’ (vomitings), that she all but died of it, and remained very weak.”[187]

“And four months before she died,” hence in mid-May, “many physicians were called together. And they saw and examined the patient, but failed to find any trace of bodily infirmity, in spite of the care and attention bestowed by them on the case. And she declared her conviction that her infirmity was not of a kind requiring physicians or bodily physic. But on the physicians persevering and ordering her, she obediently took all that they prescribed, although with great difficulty and to her hurt. Until at last those same physicians concluded that there was no remedy within the art of medicine applicable to the case, and that the infirmity was supernatural.”[188]

“But now there supervened, on his return from England, an excellent Genoese physician, Maestro Giovan Battista Boerio, who, for many years, had been in the service of the English King, Henry VII. And Boerio visited Catherine, and warned her to beware of giving scandal by refusing medical treatment. And she, in return, assured him that it grieved her much if she scandalized any one; and that she was prepared to use any remedy for her ailment, if such could be found.” And indeed “joy arose within her, at the hope of being cured by him. But in the following night much” psycho-physical “pain and trouble came upon her,” and “she then reproved her natural self (umanità), saying: ‘Thou sufferest this, because thou didst rejoice without (just) cause.’” Yet after about three weeks’ trial of every kind of remedy, a trial which left her as it found her, Boerio abandoned the task, but[201] “henceforward held Catherine in esteem and reverence, calling her ‘Mother,’ and often visiting her.”[189]

Here we have an interesting group of facts. For one thing, we know how King Henry “had for years been visited by regular fits of the gout; his strength visibly wasted away, and every spring the most serious apprehensions were entertained of his life.” “He had also pains in the chest and difficulty of respiration.” And, “in the spring of 1509 the King sank under the violence of the disease.”[190] And thus Boerio will, a year after the death of his royal master, have been called in to the sick-bed of the Viceroy’s daughter, not simply as a court physician or as a generally skilful doctor, but as a man known to have had long experience of a case which prima facie was not all unlike Catherine’s.

Then it is impossible not to feel throughout these and other passages of the Vita which are concerned with physicians, a curious combination of contradictory feelings. There is reproof of the doctors’ presumption in venturing to begin by treating her illness as though it were a simply natural one; and there is the proud pleasure at thus getting, through the breakdown of this their presumptuous undertaking, professional testimony to the supernatural character of her infirmity. And the two motives lead to the self-contradictory over-emphasizing both of the Physicians’ moral worth and finality of testimony at the end of each experience, and of their rationalistic rashness in being willing to try again, a rashness assumed to be apparent to every one but themselves before each new attempt. For they must be represented as worthy and skilful men; else what value has their testimony? And their action must be intrinsically foolish from the outset; else what becomes of the transparently and separately supernatural character of her illness?[191]


And then we can still see fairly clearly that Catherine does not share the views of practically all her attendants, and of certainly all the later contributors to and revisers of the Vita. For even now the book still leaves intact the passages which show her as hoping to be cured by Boerio, and as then condemning herself for having rejoiced without cause,—evidently, without supernatural justification; as prepared to believe that the physicians might be able to find an appropriate remedy, and as willingly trying the remedies they actually offer her; and as indeed declaring her doubt whether any physic would do her any good, yet nowhere announcing a conviction as to the directly and separately supernatural character of her illness. “Her attendants,” says the obviously most authentic continuation of the passage concerning the cupping-glasses given further back, “let these attacks come and go, with as little damage as possible. Her body had to be and was sustained without the aid of medicine, and solely by means of great care and great vigilance.”[192]

2. Catherine and Don Carenzio, Argentina, and Ettore Vernazza.

It will have been the end of June, or the beginning of July, when these medical experiments ceased. But before them (on March 11 and twice in April), and again three times during them (in May and June), monies were paid, in Catherine’s name, by Don Giacomo Carenzio, now resident as Rettore in the Hospital, in the matter of the granting of Indulgences to the Church attached to the Hospital. And although this affair, occurring thus so late on in her illness, in which we have already found her not always to have dominated the plans of her attendants, cannot well be pressed as necessarily characteristic of her, yet I take it to be quite likely that she still took some active part in the matter.[193]

Catherine certainly still attended to business, even two months later; for, on August 3, Vernazza drew up a Codicil[203] in her presence “in the bedroom of Argentina del Sale,” says the document itself. Since the Inventory, still extant, of the things found in Catherine’s rooms at the time of her death, gives a list of the bedclothes of only two beds, and these two beds are then both in the same room, and the one bed is Catherine’s, and the other is that of the famiglia (the servant) Argentina: it is clear that, for at least the last six weeks of her life, Catherine had only one person sleeping in her little house with her, and that this person was the navvy Marco’s little widow. I take it, with Vallebona, that the room was really Catherine’s ordinary bedroom; but that, as Argentina now slept there as regularly as her mistress herself, Catherine preferred, whether from humility or affection (the latter motive seems the more probable), to think of the room as belonging to Argentina.[194]

For some reason unknown to us, Vernazza, Catherine’s closest friend, must have left Genoa soon after drawing up this Codicil. For he did not draw up or witness her final Codicil of September 12, although, when in Genoa at all, he now lived close by, and although this final Codicil but gave effect to the plan regarding her sepulture which underlay the change introduced into the Will of March 1509, a Will which had been witnessed by himself. And, as we shall see, he was absent, indeed far away (lontano), from her death-bed, some six weeks after the date at which we have now arrived. I think we can only explain this departure by assuming that already now, before his inspirer’s death, his zeal and activity had expanded beyond the limits of the Genoese Republic; and that, dying as she already was, and devoted to her as he ever remained, he nevertheless (since there was now so little that he could hope to do for her own person, and there was so much to do elsewhere in the way of developing and applying her spirit and teachings) now rode off to Venice or to Rome, as we know him to have done, so often and for so long, during the fourteen remaining years of his life. And we have in this a fact peculiarly characteristic of these two expansive souls,—of the influence of the one, the frail woman, dying in her little sick-room, and of the execution of her world-embracing aspirations by the other, the strong man, battling, often at the risk of his very life, for the[204] poor and oppressed, outside, on the great trysting-field of men’s passions and requirements.

3. Psycho-physical condition and its utilization, August 10 to 27.

But Catherine, lying in her sick-room, suffered on August 10 from one of her great burnings. “And next day, whilst her body was still in pain and trouble, God drew her mind upwards to Himself. And she fixed her eyes on the ceiling, and remained thus almost immovable for an hour, and spoke not but laughed joyously. And when she had returned to her more ordinary consciousness, she said this one thing only: ‘O Lord, do with me whatsoever Thou wilt.’”[195]

On August 15, she, “when about to communicate, addressed many beautiful words to the Blessed Sacrament, so that every one present was moved to tears.”[196] During the following day and night she suffered so greatly, that “all considered she would certainly die. She asked,”—this was the third or even fourth time,—“for Extreme Unction, and” this time “it was given her, and she received it with great devotion.”


“On the day following,” the 17th, “she was in a state of jubilation of heart (giubilo di cuore), which manifested itself exteriorly in merry laughter. And, having been asked as to the cause, she said that she had seen various most beautiful, merry, and joyous countenances, so that she had been unable to refrain from laughing. And this impression continued throughout several days, during which she appeared to be improved in health.”[197] But on August 22 or 23, “she again had a day of much heat and trouble. She remained maimed (paralyzed) in her right hand and in one finger of the left hand. And then she remained as though dead for about sixteen hours.”[198]

In the night of the 23rd or 24th (Feast of St. Bartholomew) she had “a great attack in mind and body; and being unable to speak, she made the sign of the Cross upon her heart. And, later on, she was understood to have been molested by a diabolical temptation.”[199]

On the 25th “she was in great weakness. And she caused her windows to be opened, so as to be able to see the sky. And, as the night came on, she had many candles lit; and she chanted, as well as she could, the ‘Veni, Creator Spiritus.’ And when she had finished she fixed her eyes upon the sky, and remained thus an hour and a half, making many gestures with her hands and eyes. And when she had resumed her ordinary consciousness (quando fù ritornata in sè), she said repeatedly: ‘Let us go’; and then added: ‘No more earth, no more earth.’ And her body remained greatly shaken from this contemplation (vista).” And on August 27 “she saw herself as though bereft of her body and of its animating soul, and her spirit alone in God above. And after this she addressed those present and said: ‘Let only those come in who may be necessary.’”[200]


This particular group is specially interesting. For it shows us Catherine’s love of the large and expansive, of the spiritually simple and interior, and of the supernatural and transcendent in her look-out into the open; in her vivid apprehension of her spirit bereft of all things except the Supreme Spirit, that spirit’s native element and home; and in her gaze into the starlit Italian August sky above. And it gives us indications, elsewhere so rare in her life, of her attachment to the visible, audible, tangible vehicles and expressions of religion, as so many helps and occasions of its immanence in our minds and hearts, in her signing her heart with the sign of the Cross, her having the candles lit and her chanting a definite traditional Church hymn, and in her fourth demand of Extreme Unction and devout reception of it. It is also noticeable how vivid and yet how undefined are her impressions of those countenances, since neither she herself anywhere, nor even her chroniclers in this place, explicitly identify them with Angels; and how still more general and indefinite remains the “diabolic temptation,” since in this case, only when it was over, was she “understood” to have been thus tempted. Indeed any directly diabolical temptation would be profoundly uncharacteristic of her special call and way: all through the records of her life and teaching it is the selfish, claimful Self that she fears “more than a demon,” “worse than the devil”; she is, in a very true sense, too busy watching, fighting, ignoring, supplanting Self, and ever putting, keeping, and replacing God, Love, in Self’s stead, to give or find occasion for what, in this her immensely strenuous inner life, would have been a remoter conflict.

4. Persistent self-knowledge and excessive impressionableness.

The Vita next gives us five most vivid but undated paragraphs as to her health. I will take them together with such other dated occurrences as will bring us down to September 10.

There is first a characteristic general fact, and a probably often repeated remark of Catherine’s.[207] “At times she would have no pulse, and at other times she would have a good one; often she would seem to sleep; and from this state she would awake, at one time completely herself again, and at other times so limp, oppressed, and shattered as to be unable to move. And those that attended on her did not know how to distinguish one state from the other. And hence, on coming to, she would sometimes say, ‘Why did you let me remain in this quietude, from which I have almost died?’”[201] Thus Catherine’s attendants are helplessly at sea concerning her psycho-physical condition, and they identify, and directly supernaturalize, each and all of her successive and simultaneous states. But Catherine herself remains clearly conscious of different levels and values in these states: of normal, grace-impelled, freely-willed, strength-bringing contemplations and quietudes; and of sickly, weakening, more or less hysterical, lassitudes and failures. And she is thus aware of the deep difference between the two sets of states, that are externally so similar, at the very time of experiencing the one or the other of them; and is conscious, at the same time, both of being unable, by her own unaided will, to give effect, from within, to this her own knowledge, and of being able and willing, indeed anxious, to follow the lead and the pressure of wisely discriminating will-acts, proceeding from without, and, as it were, meeting her own wishes half-way, and thus turning them into effective willings. She herself has still the knowledge, but, now she is ill, she has no more the power. They have the power, but not the knowledge. And she knows all this, through God’s illumination working in and upon her own long and rich experiences, sound good sense, severe self-detachment, close self-observation, and incorruptible veracity of mind; and she knows it in spite of, and in direct opposition to, the far more flattering misconceptions, and entirely well-meant and sincere opinions (representative of the traditional and contemporary consensus of view on these obscure matters) of the servants, lawyers, physicians, relatives, and priests about her. The incident is closely parallel to her scruple as to Marabotto’s spoiling her; and one more similar detail will be mentioned later on.

But next, we get now abundant evidence that she was ill indeed. There is the rapidly shifting fancifulness of the senses of taste and smell, together with an ever-increasing difficulty of swallowing. “She would, at times, be so thirsty as to feel capable of drinking all the water of the sea, and yet she could not, as a matter of fact, manage to swallow even one little drop of water.” “Seeing on one occasion a melon, and conceiving a great desire to eat it, she had it given to her. But hardly had she a piece of it in her mouth, but she rejected it with great disgust.”[208] “She often bathed her mouth with water, and then suddenly she would reject it.” “To-day the smell of wine would please her, and she would bathe her hands and face in it, with great relish; and to-morrow she would dislike it so much, as to be unable any longer to see or smell it in her room.”[202] And, in strict conformity with this detail, I find an entry in the Hospital account-book for this time, of money disbursed to the account of Catherine, for a cask of wine for her use.[203]

Yet her biographers are evidently only stating the simple truth when they declare that she continued to receive Holy Communion with ease and safety; for not only are there three quite unsuspicious passages, descriptive of her receptions of It, under most difficult circumstances; but we find, on counting up the incidental and bare mentions of her Communions, that, during the fourteen days from September 2 to 15, her death-day, she communicated ten times, and one or two further Communions may have been accidentally omitted.

There is, again, an occasional abnormal sensitiveness to colours, and their mental connotations, at least in connection with red. “On September 2, a Physician, a friend of hers,”—no doubt Maestro Boerio,—“came to visit her, robed in his Doctor’s ‘scarlet,’” as was no doubt the custom when visiting patients of quality. “And she bore this sight for a little, so as not to hurt his feelings. But when she could bear it no longer, she said to him: ‘Sir, I can no further bear the sight of this gown of yours, because of what it represents (suggests) to me.’ The Physician departed at once and returned clad in another,” a black “gown.” The Chronicler, probably Boerio’s priest-son, is no doubt substantially right in interpreting this as meaning that the scarlet suggested to her a seraph aflame with divine love. Yet I find, from the inventory of her final possessions, that she possessed, and doubtless used, among her bedclothes a vermilion silk coverlet and a vermilion blanket,—an undoubted indication of her love for this colour.[204] These two vicissitudes of her colour-affection no doubt mutually supplement and explain each other: when not over-impressionable and not already stimulated to the full of her[209] capacity, this colour would suggest her central doctrine and experience, and would be pleasurable; when over-impressionable and already stimulated as much as, then and there, she could bear and utilize, the colour would but strain and disturb her.

And, finally, there are sensations and impressions of extreme heat and cold, and excessive sensibility or insensibility in tactual matters. “At one time she was cold; and at another, burning hot.” “On one day,” early in September, “she suffered great cold in her right arm, followed by acute pain”; and on September 7, “her body felt all on fire; and, since it seemed to her as though the whole world were aflame, she asked whether this were the case, and had her windows opened, so as to be reassured as to the real facts.”[205]

“At times she would be sensitive to such a degree, that it was impossible to touch her sheets or a hair of her head; she would, if this were done, cry out as though she had been grievously wounded.”[206] The temporary paralysis and anaesthetic conditions have been already described.

5. Three spiritually significant events, September 4-9.

We can next consider together three spiritually significant incidents which occurred during these penultimate days of hers.

“On September 4 she lay there in her bed, in great pain, her arms stretched out in suchwise that she appeared like a body nailed to a cross; as she was within, so did she appear without.” Here, then, she finds a certain attraction and help in an external, quasi-ritual attitude and act; for this attitude, however spontaneous and but subconscious, was doubtless not simply accidental or the mere result of pain. It is, with the Pietà-picture of her childhood and the Conversion-vision of the Bleeding Christ, one of the only three direct references to the Passion which I can find throughout her whole life and teaching. This little act gave occasion to the “Spiritual Stigmata”-legend, which is inserted here, in two paragraphs, by the Vita, on the alleged, and I think actual, authority of[210] the credulous and long-lived Argentina. The legend is wanting in all the MSS.; its late genesis and growth is clearly traceable.[207]

“On September 5, some time after her Communion, she suddenly had a sight (vista) of herself, as dead and lying in a truckle-bed, with many Religious, robed in black, around her. And she rejoiced greatly at this sight. But afterwards, having a prick of conscience because of this rejoicing, she confessed it to her Confessor.”[208] Here we have once more a particular desire within Catherine’s soul, and a scruple consequent upon it; and all this but ten days before her death.

And on the 9th, after Communion, there was “suddenly shown her a sight of her (spiritual) miseries; and this gave great annoyance (noia) to her mind. And, as soon as she was able to tell (confess) them, she did so; and the sight then departed from her.”[209] Here, then, we have clear[211] testimony to imperfections perceived by herself as still within her, and to her Confession of them as such; things characteristic of her third as against her second period, but which most of the contributors to the Vita try hard to obscure even here.

IV. The Last Six Days of Catherine’s Life, September 10-15.

And now the events of real significance which occurred during the last six days of her life can be grouped under six heads.

1. A great consultation of Physicians, September 10.

On the 10th there occurred a second, and last, great consultation of Physicians. The number is this time given—they were ten: “of whom several are still alive,” writes the final Redactor of the printed Vita of 1551. And, in this case, they did not prescribe any remedies; but “examining her and inspecting everything with great diligence, they finally concluded that such a case was (must be) a supernatural and divine thing, since neither the pulse, nor any of the secretions, nor any other symptom, showed any trace of any infirmity. They were astounded, and departed recommending themselves to her prayers.” “When she was not oppressed or tormented by her attacks (accidenti), she seemed well; when she was being stifled by them (suffocata), she seemed dead: and again, suddenly, the opposite condition would be seen. And hence it was most clearly understood, that all this operation was produced (ordinata) by the divine goodness itself.”[210]

Here we have a clear exposition of the two sets of phenomena which specially impressed her entourage, and of the reasoning by which these appearances were turned into direct proofs of the Metaphysical, indeed of the Supernatural. There are three assumptions at work here. What exceeds the knowledge of the Physicians of any one period, can be safely held to exceed not only human knowledge throughout all coming ages, but the powers of nature itself. All purely natural illness is either simply physical or simply[212] mental, and always shows traces of a simply physical or of a simply mental kind. And all purely natural illness is either slow in its transitions, or, at least, not sudden in its transitions back and up to apparent health. And these assumptions must have lain in those minds as part and parcel of their hereditary furniture, in so far as they did not energize and aspire, and did not, by moving out and up into the regions of Action and of the Spiritual, of the Dynamic and of Love, transcend all that is mechanically transmissible, and, with it, all that was bound to change and be proved inadequate in the knowledge of their time. It was their very religion which, with its strong predisposition and determination to find immediate, independent, tangible, medically certified proofs for an exceptional, indeed exclusive action of God, kept these Physicians thus, even religiously, tied down in and by the Contingent and Transitory. And it was her very religion which, by its grandly ethico-spiritual Transcendence, kept Catherine above and outside the very possibility of growing obsolete or old. We now see, with even painful clearness, how inadequate, indeed how directly suggestive of the contrary, were those Physicians’ and Redactors’ treasured proofs. For neither the absence of all symptoms of physical or of clearly mental disease, nor the presence of an astounding frequency, abruptness, and completeness of change in the psycho-physical actions and functions of the living person, nor, above all, the conjunction of these two peculiarities, are for us now, taken by themselves, anything but indications of nervous, hysterical derangement. It is in spite of these things, or at least only on occasion of them, that Catherine is great. Indeed one fails to see how, in any case, such purely psycho-physical phenomenal data could, of themselves and directly, ever compel any such metaphysical and spiritual conclusions. And, be it noted, only in proportion as men abandon such impossible enterprises, do they become sufficiently detached from these phenomena to be able accurately to gauge their nature. These attendants who build so much on these phenomena, do not see them as they are; Catherine, who builds nothing on them, and who simply uses them as fresh means and occasions of ethico-spiritual growth, sees them, to an astonishing extent, as they really are.

2. The final Codicil, September 12.

On the 12th,[213] “she communicated as usual, but tasted no other food, and after this she remained a very long time without speaking. And after they had been bathing her mouth for some time, she exclaimed, ‘I am suffocating’ (io affogo). She said this because a little drop of water had trickled into her throat, and she could not gulp it down.” And in the evening the Notary Saccheri drew up in her presence, with her nephew Francesco Fiesco and the maid Argentina del Sale as two of the seven witnesses, a last Codicil, in which she, “although languishing in body, yet possessed of her faculties (in sua sana memoria esistente), ordained that her body should be buried in such a place and Church as should be ordained by Don Jacobo Carenzio, the present Rector of the Hospital, and Don Cattaneo Marabotto.” And “at ten o’clock at night she complained of a very great heat (fire), and then ejected from the mouth much black blood. And black spots appeared all over her body, with very severe suffering. And her sight became so weak that she could barely distinguish one person from the other.”[211]

Here at last we can plainly see the object which had moved her friends, eighteen months before, to get her to fix upon San Nicolò in Boschetto as her burial-place. They now, when she is at the point of death, and in the last moment of fairly lucid mind, get her finally to declare,—not that she is to be buried in the Hospital Church apart from her husband, though this is what they themselves intend to do, but simply that her grave is to be wheresoever Dons Marabotto and Carenzio shall decide. It is interesting to note to how late a date her friends thought it wise to postpone such a move, and in how indirect and roundabout a fashion they had to attain their end. Yet it is again plain that the whole scheme was willed and executed by her family and friends unanimously; for, if Vernazza had been a witness to the previous Will, so was Francesco Fiesco now a witness to this Codicil.—We should also note that, if the difficulty in swallowing of the early day is still entirely in keeping with her life-long psycho-physical peculiarities, the attack at night is the first in her life when the blood lost is described as of bad quality[214] and where spots appear on her person, indeed where any symptom of definite illness is recorded. But now at last it is evident that downright physical mischief is at work.

3. Symptoms of organic lesion and delirium, September 13.

Before dawn “on the 13th, she evacuated much blood of a bad quality and great heat, so that she remained even weaker than before. Nevertheless she again communicated at her usual hour.” And later on “she fixed her gaze immovably upon the ceiling, and made many gestures with her mouth and hands. The bystanders asked her what it was that she was seeing, and she said: ‘Drive away that beast that wants to eat…,’ and the remainder of the words could not be made out.”[212]

Here two points are of pathetic interest. This great heat of her blood was considered, no doubt from the first by at least some of her attendants, and then later on more and more by the Redactors, as so directly marvellous, spiritually significant, and confirmatory of sayings of her own as to her interior ardours, that three various though parallel anecdotes and proofs as to the intensity of its heat are solemnly printed here by the Vita, only the first of which appears in the MSS. Purely secondary, physical matters are thus, with a short-sighted good faith and admiration, eagerly utilized to naturalize and obscure a soaringly spiritual personality. Truly, she was not simply mistaken as to her isolation: she too had the privilege to share some of the piercing loneliness of Christ.

And next, we have here her last coherent utterance; and the care and fearless honesty with which it has been chronicled and printed as such—and as the concluding words of a chapter (Chapter L), up to at least the fourth edition, Venice 1601—are truly admirable. The words, “that wants to eat,” appear in MSS. “A” and “B,” and are, I think, authentic. They may mean that the beast was looking about for some unspecified food, or that it was wanting to devour her (the former is, I think, the more likely meaning, for there is no indication of fright, and devorare would, in the latter case, be the more natural word). We have, in any case, a quasi-physical, distinctly maladif impression; one which, as regards at least its apparently sensible embodiment, was the simple projection of her own mind. And indeed there is nothing to[215] show that she had any consciousness of any spiritual significance about it. It has got all the opaque, uninteresting character of mere, given, unrelated, and unsuggestive fact, which all such purely nervous projections always have; and stands thus in complete and instructive contrast to her finely suggestive and transparent, spiritually significant Viste, which contributed so largely to the volitional stimulation and moral and religious witness and truth of her life.

4. Catherine’s death, dawn of September 15, 1510.

During the early night hours of “the 14th, she again lost much blood, and she weakened much in her speech. Yet she once more, and it was the last time, communicated as usual. And throughout this day she lay there, with her pulse so slight as to be unfindable.” And “many devoted friends were present.”

And as the subsequent night ceased to be Saturday and became Sunday, the 15th, “she was asked whether she wished to communicate. But she then pointed with her right index-finger towards the sky.” And her friends understood that she wished to indicate by this that she had to go and communicate in heaven. “And at this moment, this blessed soul gently expired, in great peace and tranquillity, and flew to her tender and much desired Love.”[213]

Here three points are of interest. Catherine undoubtedly died at, or shortly before, dawn on the 15th September, as is clearly required by the older account on page 160c of the Vita. Yet a second account, sufficiently early to appear in all the MSS., is given on page 161c, according to which she died on the 14th. The reason of this latter pragmatic “correction” is obvious: the 15th is but the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, the 14th is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The temptation to find a final, strikingly appropriate synchronism, when, to do so, her death need only be pushed back some six hours at most, was too great to be resisted to the end; and an untrained, enthusiastic, imaginative mind like Argentina’s would, probably from the very first, have almost unconsciously helped to establish, or perhaps she single-handedly fixed, this date.

And next, the “many friends” present will no doubt have included her sole surviving brother Lorenzo and his son Francesco, who, only three days before, had witnessed her[216] Codicil; one or other of the four “Protectors” of the Hospital; Don Carenzio, the Rector; and Argentina del Sale. But Vernazza, as we already know, was far away; and, as we shall find in a moment, Mariola, and, above all, Marabotto, though both in Genoa, were both absent from her death-bed. Now it is certain that the absence of Marabotto cannot have been accidental, for death had evidently been recognized by all to be imminent, ever since the 12th at least; and he himself would certainly not have put anything in the world before attending Catherine at the moment of her death. Nor, as we shall find, was he ill just now. Yet we must, I think, suppose him to have been (at least off and on) about her person, during the 12th, up to the drawing up of the Codicil, which directly concerns himself together with Carenzio. His own name appears second, no doubt because, as the document itself mentions, Carenzio and not he is now Rector of the Hospital in which the document is being drawn up. Marabotto will have withdrawn after the attack on that night which left Catherine hardly capable of any further distinguishing one person from another; and he will have retired because Carenzio, from some little jealousy or feeling of punctilio, cared to claim the right, as Rector, alone to attend her at the last; or for some other slight reason such as this. In any case, there is here one more indication of a certain friction and rivalry amongst her attendants and chroniclers, which, however painful, will help us in our study of the peculiarities of her biography. There is, however, nothing to show that Marabotto’s final withdrawal took place at the instigation, or even with the knowledge, of Catherine; and the cause of that withdrawal can certainly not have been a grave one.

And finally, there appeared eventually, at earliest in the fifth edition, 1615, but possibly not till the sixth, in 1645, or even later, a gloss which effectually prevents her “unedifying” remark of the 13th from being her last utterance. After the words, “and at this moment, this blessed soul,” there then appears the clause: “saying: ‘Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my Spirit.’” The passage occurs in the late and entirely secondary MS. “F,” which contains also other demonstrably legendary “embellishments.”

5. Intimations of her death vouchsafed to friends.

The Vita gives an account of seven intimations or apparitions, vouchsafed at the moment of her death to as many[217] chosen friends and disciples,—so many communications of her passage and instant complete union with God. Although no names are given, it is easy to identify the first six persons as Argentina del Sale, “a spiritual daughter of hers, present at her death”; Mariola Bastarda, “another spiritual daughter of hers, who had an evil spirit upon her (il demonio adosso)”; Maestro Boerio, “a physician, her devotee”; Ettore Vernazza, “a very spiritual man and her devotee”; Tommasa Fiesca, “a holy Religious woman, most devoted to her”; and Benedetta Lombarda, “another Religious woman, who had been a member of her household (sua famigliare).” The seventh and last, “a nun” (una monaca), is so little characterized, as to be incapable of certain identification: possibly Battista Vernazza is meant, who, though but thirteen years old, was already an Augustinian Novice.[214]

The order in which the first six names appear is evidently determined partly by the degree of physical proximity to Catherine—Argentina by her bedside, comes before Boerio in another house in Genoa, and Boerio comes before Vernazza, since the latter is far away (lontano); partly by sex—Boerio and Vernazza, though simple laymen, appear before the three Religious women; and partly by the abnormal spiritual condition, and consequent increase in the value of the testimony, of the souls concerned—Mariola the Possessed comes first among all those not actually present at the death. Even this order, and still more the form of all these little notices, show plainly that the stress is laid, not so much on the intimation of the death, as on that of the immediate entrance into glory. Note that there is no reference anywhere to Don Carenzio, certainly as much present at the death as Argentina; nor, within this particular list, to Don Marabotto, as certainly absent as Ettore Vernazza.

It is disappointing to find that, whereas such intimations, or at least communications as to death at the moment of its occurrence, belong to the best authenticated of the more mysterious human experiences, and although we would expect to find some such unmistakably vivid and first-hand accounts at this point in the life of one so spiritually great and so deeply loved as was Catherine, the accounts are all, with the possible exception of that concerning Boerio, very general and colourless. As to Boerio we are told:[218] “A Physician, her devotee, was asleep, but awoke at the moment of her passing, and heard a voice which said to him: ‘Abide with God; I am now going to Paradise.’ And he called his wife and said to her: ‘Madonna Caterina has died at this moment’; and this turned out to have been the case.”[215]

Two insipid, vague, and gossipy fragments concerning Don Marabotto strive to make up for his absence from the list of the seven recipients of synchronizing intimations. “Her Confessor during that night (14th to 15th) and throughout the following day (15th), had no notice whatever concerning her.” This is told as if it had been something spiritually remarkable, whereas it was evidently but strangely unkind on the part of the other friends of Catherine. “The next day (16th) he attempted to say a Mass for the Dead for the soul of Catherine.” He evidently had been told on the evening of the 15th, or quite early on the 16th, for there is here no claim to any supernatural intimation. “And he found himself unable to pray for her in particular. And again on the following day, whilst saying a Mass in honour of several Martyrs, his mind was suddenly, from the Introit onwards, fixed upon Catherine’s spiritual martyrdom, so that his abundant weeping made it difficult for him to finish his Mass.”[216] There is, as so often with Marabotto, something slightly comical, and yet respectable, because thoroughly genuine, loyal, and truthful, about this his eager desire to experience something unusual, the careful registration of something quite commonplace, and the wistful attempt to make it out extraordinary after all.

6. Alleged miraculous condition of Catherine’s skin and heart.

There remain two more medical details, which are, however, of some significance in connection with the spirit of her entourage.

Her skin is declared to have been, after death, of a yellow colour throughout. Indeed in various places of the Vita yellow or red colour is noted in connection with her person, but generally as localized about the region of the heart. But the accounts vary, indeed contradict each other, so much, that I shrink from finally adopting any one account.[217]


The action of her heart was often laborious or even acutely painful: “At the last, owing to the great fire of pure and penetrating love, that burnt within her heart, the skin over it became so tender as to be unable to be touched. It seemed as though she had a wound right through her heart. And she often held her hand over it; and it would pant like a pair of bellows, on one day more than on another.”[218] And how often had not Catherine spoken of the wondrous things, the spiritual joys and sufferings, that she felt within her heart! And so some of her materializing biographers, probably some of her attendants before them, doubt not that “if only her (physical) heart had been examined after death, some marvellous sign would have been found upon it.”[219] We even find a report that “this holy soul, several months before her death, left an order that, after her death, her body should be opened and her heart examined, because they would find it all consumed (burnt up) by love. Nevertheless her friends did not dare to do so.”[220] This sheer legend will have been due to Argentina, and will have become articulate long after the first deposition of Catherine’s remains. There is certainly no other, indeed no kind of authentic, evidence of any such wish or hesitation on the part of any one at the time. It is sad to note how rapidly and easily, all but inevitably, the vivid, spiritual ideas and experiences of Catherine were thus materialized and spoilt.


V. Sketch of Catherine’s Spiritual Character and Significance.

Before proceeding further to what is really still a necessary part and elucidation of Catherine’s spiritual character and special significance,—her doctrine and the posthumous effect, extension, and application of her life and teaching upon and by means of her greatest disciples,—it may be well to pause a little, and to try and give, as far as the largely fragmentary and vague evidence permits, a short and vivid picture and summary, in part retrospective and in part prospective, of the special type, meaning and importance of Catherine’s personality and spiritual attitude, and of the interrelation of the two. In so doing I propose to move, as far as possible, from the psycho-physical and temperamental peculiarities and determinisms of her case, up to the spiritual characteristics and ethical self-determinations; and to try and note everywhere what she was not as definitely as what she was. For only thus shall we have some adequate apprehension of the “beggarly elements” which she found, and of the spiritual organism and centre of far-reaching influence which she left. And only thus too will it be possible to see at all clearly the cost, the limitations, and the special functions, temporary and permanent, of her particular kind of soul and sanctity.

1. Her special temperament.

It is clear then, first, that in her we have to do with a highly nervous, delicately poised, immensely sensitive and impressionable psycho-physical organism and temperament. It was a temperament which, had it been unmatched by a mind and will at least its equals; had these latter not found, or been found by, a definite, rich, and supernaturally powerful, historical, and institutional religion; and had not the mind and will, with this religious help, been kept in constant operation upon it, would have spelt, if not moral ruin, at least life-long ineffectualness. Yet, as a matter of fact, not only did this temperament not dominate her, with the apparently rare and incomplete exceptions of some but semi-voluntary, short impressions and acts during the last months of her life; but it became one of the chief instruments and materials of her life’s work and worth. Only together with such a mind and will, is such a temperament not a grave drawback; and[221] even with them it is an obvious danger, and requires their constant careful checking and active shaping.

And this temperament involved an unusually large subconscious life. All souls have some amount of this life, but many have it but slight and shallow: she had it of a quite extraordinary degree and depth. A coral reef, growing up from, and just peering above, a hundred fathom-deep ocean, would be an appropriate picture of the large predominance of subconsciousness in this spacious soul. And even this circumstance alone would cause her spiritual lights and fully conscious experiences to come abruptly, and in the form of quasi-physical seizures and surprises. Continuous, and possibly long, incubations of ideas and feelings would thus be taking place in the subconscious region, and these feelings and ideas would then, when fully ripe, or on some slight stimulation from the conscious region or directly from the outer world, make sudden irruptions into that full consciousness. Nor would such natural suddenness of full consciousness really militate against the claim to supernaturalness of the ideas and feelings thus revealed. For they would still be most rightly conceived as the work of God’s Spirit in and through the action of her own spirit: not their causation and their source, but simply the suddenness of their revelation and the channel of their outlet would lose in supernaturalness.

And hers was a soul with habitually large fields of consciousness. Apparently from her conversion onwards, and certainly during the last fourteen years of her life, the moments or days of narrow fields were, till quite the last weeks or even days, comparatively rare; and their narrowness was evidently always felt as most painful and oppressive. And the interior occupation was so intense; the several fields succeeded each other with such an apparent automatism and quality of even physical seizure; and they were either so entrancing by their largeness or so depressing by their narrowness: that to souls not in tune with hers, she must, in the former moods, have appeared as egoistic, as (in a sense) too much of a man, as one absorbed in great but purely general, super-personal ideas which were making her forget both her own and her fellow-creature’s minor wants; and, in the latter moods, as downrightly egotistic, as (in a way) too much of a woman, as one engrossed in her own purely individual, small and fanciful troubles and trials. Yet the “Egoism” is not dominant during her middle period, since it is certain that[222] her charitable and administrative activities, and close affective interest in the daily, physical and emotional lot and demands of the poor and lowly, were most real and considerable. And, in her third period, it was this very “Egoism” which, as we shall see, was the form and means of the interior apprehension and exterior elaboration of her most original and suggestive doctrines, and became the occasion for her stimulation of other intensely active souls on to great nation-wide enterprises of the most practical, permanent, and heroic kind. And the “Egotistic” moods are unapparent before the last two years or less of her life; and they then are clearly but the occasional, involuntary suspensions or partial yieldings of her normally iron will,—rare checks and intermittences which, with little or no preventible faultiness on her own part, give us pathetically vivid glimpses of what that normal life of hers cost her to achieve and to maintain, and of what she would have been, if bereft of God’s generosity ever awakening, deepening, and operating through her own.

All this sensitiveness, subconsciousness, spaciousness, variety, and suddenness of apprehension and feeling; all this largely chaotic, mutually conflicting, raw material of her spiritual life, even if it had existed alongside of but feeble and inert powers of organization and transformation, would not have failed to produce considerable suffering; although, in such a case, that suffering would have remained largely inarticulate, and would have left the soul checked and counterchecked by various tyrannous passions and fancies. The soul would thus have been less efficient and persuasive than the least subconscious and sensitive specimens of average and “common-sense” humanity. But, in her case, all this unusually turbulent raw material was in unusually close contiguity to powers of mind and of will of a rare breadth and strength. And this very closeness of apposition and width of contrast, and this great strength of mind and will, made all that disordered multiplicity, distraction, and dispersion of her clamorous, many-headed, many-hearted nature, a tyranny impossible and unnecessary to bear. And yet to achieve the actual escape from such a tyranny, the mastering of such a rabble, and the harmonization of such a chaos, meant a constant and immense effort, a practically unbroken grace-getting and self-giving, an ever-growing heroism and indeed sanctity, and, with and through all these things, a corresponding expansion and virile joy. It can thus be said, in all simple truth, that she became[223] a saint because she had to; that she became it, to prevent herself going to pieces: she literally had to save, and actually did save, the fruitful life of reason and of love, by ceaselessly fighting her immensely sensitive, absolute, and claimful self.

2. Catherine and Marriage.

Catherine’s mind was without humour or wit; and this was, of course, a serious drawback. And her temperament was of so excessive a mentality, as to amount to something more or less abnormal. For not only is there no trace about her, at any time, of moral vulgarity of any kind, or of any tendency to it; and this is, of course, a grand strength; but she seems at all times to have been greatly lacking in that quite innocent and normal sensuousness, which appears to form a necessary element of the complete human personality. It is true that in the anecdotes of her impulsive and yet reverent affection for the pestiferous woman and the cancerous workman, with the finely self-oblivious sympathy which moves her to kiss the mouth of the first, and long to remain with her arms around the neck of the other, there is the beautiful tenderness and daring of a great positive purity, of the purity of flame and not of snow. And her love of her servants, Argentina in particular, and of poor Thobia, is exquisitely true and constant. Yet even all this can hardly be classed with the element referred to, with that love of children and of women as the bearers of them, that instinct of union with all that is pure and fruitful in the normal life of sex, such as is so beautifully present throughout St. Luke’s Gospel, but which is, at least relatively, absent from St. John’s.

Possibly her unhappy and childless marriage determined the non-development or the mortification of any tendencies to such a temper. But the absence referred to was more probably caused by her congenital psychical temperament and state themselves; and, if so, it would point to her as a person hardly intended for marriage, and as one who, through no fault of her own, could not satisfy the less purely mental of the perfectly licit requirements which make up the many-levelled wants of a normal, or at least ordinary, man’s and husband’s nature. Pompilia’s dying words, in Browning’s “Ring and the Book,” would, probably at any time after her premature involuntary marriage, have found an appropriate place upon Catherine’s lips, had she ever thought it loyal or kind to utter them:[224] “‘In heaven there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage.’ How like Jesus Christ to say that!”

Yet it is at least as difficult to think of her as really intended for the cloister. That early wish of hers to join a religious community, sincere and keen as it no doubt was at the time, evidently faded away completely, probably already before her conversion thirteen years later, and certainly before her widowhood. Perhaps she would have been best suited, throughout her adult years, to the life of an unmarried woman living in the world,—to the kind of life which she actually led during her widowhood, with such changes in it as her earlier, robuster health would have involved for those earlier years. She would thus, throughout her life, have divided her energies, in various degrees and combinations, between attention to the multiform, practical, physico-emotional wants of the poor; the give and take of stimulation and enlightenment to and from some few large-hearted, heroically operative friends; and, as source and centre of all such actual achievements and of indefinitely greater possibilities, indeed as a life already largely eternal and creative,—contemplative prayer of various degrees and kinds. But such a life, if it would have left out much disappointment and suffering, and not for herself alone, yet would also have been without the special occasions and incentives to her sudden conversion and long patience and detailed magnanimity. Her life, in appearing on the surface as less of a failure, would at bottom have been less of a spiritual success.

Indeed the failures and fragmentarinesses of her life, even if and where more than merely apparent to us or even to herself, helped and still help to give a poignant forcefulness to her example and teaching. There is nothing pre- or post-arranged, nothing artificial or stagey, nothing, in the deliberate occupations of her convert life, that is simply brooding about this woman: when she thinks or prays, she does so; when she acts, she acts; when she suffers, she suffers; and there is an end of it. The infinitely winning qualities of a simple veracity; of a successive livingness, because ever operative occupation with the actual real moment, and not with the after-shadow of the past nor with the fore-shadow of the future; and, through all this, of a healthy creatureliness are thus spread over all she does,—over her virtues, which are never reflected as such within her own pure mind, and over her very weaknesses and failings which, summed up in their[225] source, her false self, are ever being acknowledged, feared, and fought, with a heroism not less massive because its methods are so wisely indirect.

3. Catherine and Friendship and the Poor.

It is plain that Catherine’s temperament was naturally a profoundly sad one, although her acutest attacks of melancholy were generally succeeded by some unusually great expansion, illumination or consolidation of soul. She had, to adopt a term of recent psychology, a very low “difference-threshold”: easily and swiftly would her consciousness be affected by every kind of irritant: even a slight stimulation would at once produce pain, anxiety, or oppression of mind or soul. She was thus evidently made for a few life-long friends, for such as would deserve the privilege of giving much sympathy and patience, and of getting back helps and stimulations indefinitely greater both in quality and kind; and was not fitted for many acquaintances of the ordinary kind, with their hurry of disjointed, hand-to-mouth, half-awake thinking, feeling, and doing.

And it is very noticeable that her friendships and attachments of all kinds were of a steadiness and perseverance to which there are no real exceptions. To Giuliano, markedly inferior in nature though he evidently was to her, and positively unfaithful during the early years of their long, ill-assorted marriage, she remained faithful even during those first years which she herself never ceased to condemn as her pre-conversion period; she behaved with true magnanimity towards himself and Thobia and Thobia’s mother; and she even evinced a certain affective attachment to him and to his memory. And it would hardly be fair to quote the change in the dispositions as to her place of burial in proof of a change in her dispositions towards him. She whose affectionate interest in Thobia is shown, by irrefragable documentary proof, to have persevered, indeed increased, to the end of the poor young woman’s life, will not have changed in her feelings towards her own dead husband. Towards her brothers and sister, her nephews and nieces, her numerous Wills and Codicils show that she entertained a constant and operative affection.

These same documents prove that her affection and gratitude towards Don Marabotto were equally sincere and provident. It is true that she twice broke off relations with him, although only for a day and three days respectively; and, at the last,[226] this devoted friend of the last eleven years of her life was no more about her. Yet we have remarked that those two former absences were but caused by reasonable fears of getting spoilt by him; and that the final absence was no doubt in no way her doing. And perhaps the most impressive of all her attachments were that to the Hospital, as representative of the sick poor whom she had served, so actively and at such cost to self, for twenty-five years and more,—all her legal dispositions and her very domicile for the last thirty years of her life proclaim the permanent prominence of this interest; and her affection towards her servants, since nothing could be more considerate, thoughtful, equable, and persevering than her care and love for Benedetta, Mariola, and Argentina. Here again I cannot find any certain exceptions: for we know nothing of the history of the servant Antoinetta except that, even on the one occasion of her mention, it appeared already doubtful whether the girl herself would care to remain with her mistress to the end.

There is but one apparent, and indeed a startling, exception to this unbroken continuity of affection. Ettore Vernazza, certainly the greatest and closest, the most docile and the most influential, of her disciples, he to whom we owe the transmission of the larger and the most precious part of her teaching and spirit, and who, as will be seen, became, after her death even more than before it, and more and more right up to his own heroic end, the living reproduction and extension of the very deepest and greatest experiences and influences of her life: Vernazza appears nowhere in her Wills, except as, on one occasion, the actual drawer of the document, and, on another, as a witness. And he was far away, and clearly not accidentally, at the time of her death. I take it to be quite certain that we have here not an exception, at the point of her fullest sympathy, to that gratitude and permanence of feeling which obtained demonstrably in the other, lesser cases; but that this silence and this departure are to be explained, the former entirely, and the latter in part, by the special character as much of Ettore as of Catherine, and by the special form which their friendship assumed in consequence. I shall return to this point in my chapter on Vernazza.

4. Her Absorptions and Ecstatic States.

Catherine’s states of absorption in prayer, such as we find ever since her conversion, were transparently real and sincere,[227] and were so swift and spontaneous as to appear quasi-involuntary. They were evidently, together with, and largely on occasion of, her reception of the Holy Eucharist, the chief means and the ordinary form of the accessions of strength and growth to her spiritual life.

Possibly throughout the four years of the first period of her convert life, certainly and increasingly throughout the twenty-two years of the second, middle period, these absorptions occurred frequently, indeed daily; they were long, and lasted up to six hours at a stretch; and they were apparently timed by herself, and never rendered her incapable of hearing or attending to any call to acts of duty or of charity, and of breaking off then and there. And throughout these years she seems to have known but one kind of absorption, this primarily spiritual one, which appears to have been a particularly deep Prayer of Quiet; and she appears to have always been, if exercised, yet also profoundly sustained and strengthened, by it, even physically, for the large activity and numerous trials and sufferings awaiting her on her return to her ordinary life. And these were the years during which she lived with no mediate guidance.

During the last eleven, perhaps even thirteen years of her life, first one, and then, considerably later, a second change occurs in these respects. First these profound, healthy, and fruitful absorptions, and the power to occasion or effect, to bear or endorse them, diminish greatly, though apparently gradually, in length, regularity, and efficiency; indeed they do so almost as markedly as does the capacity for external work, their former complement and correlative. The spiritual life now breaks up into a greater variety of shorter and more fitful incidents and manifestations. The sympathy of friends, the sustaining counsel of priests, and the communication on her part of many spiritual thoughts and experiences take, in large part, the place of those long spells of the Prayer of Quiet or of Union, and still more of that external activity which are both now becoming more and more impossible to her. And next,—though not, as far as our evidence goes, before the last six months or so of her life,—there arises a second series of absorptions, externally closely similar, yet internally profoundly different. These latter absorptions are primarily psychical and involuntary, indeed psychopathic. And she herself shows and declares her knowledge of this their pathological character, her ability to distinguish them from[228] their healthy rivals, her inability to throw them off unaided, her wish that others should rouse her from them, and her power to accept and second such initiation coming to her from a will-centre other than her own.

Now her attendants and biographers, possibly all of them and even during her lifetime, considered and called those healthy absorptions “ecstasies”; and though we have clear evidence of her ever having shrunk from so naming them herself, and though, here as everywhere, she habitually turned away from considering the form and psycho-physical concomitants of her spiritual experiences, and concentrated her attention on their content and ethico-religious truth and power, there seems to be no special reason for quarrelling with their application of this term. Yet it is of great importance to observe that none of her teaching can with propriety be called directly Pneumatic. For I can find nothing that even purports to have been spoken in a state of trance, nor anything authentic that claims to convey, during her times of ordinary consciousness, anything learnt during those states of absorption other than what, in a lesser degree, is probably experienced, during at least some rare moments, by all souls that have attained to the so-called Prayer of Quiet. It is quite clear, I think, that in all these authentic passages, the states of absorption are treated substantially as times when the conscious region of her soul, a region always relatively shallow, sinks down into the ever-present deep regions of subconsciousness; and hence as experiences which can only be described indirectly,—in their effects, as traced by and in the conscious soul, after its rising up again, from this immersion in subconsciousness, to its more ordinary condition of so-called “full consciousness,” i.e. as full a consciousness as is normal, for this particular soul, in the majority of moments as are not devoted to physical sleep.

But if apparently none of Catherine’s contemplations are derived directly from things learnt during these times of absorption; those contemplations are, none the less, all indirectly influenced, in the most powerful and multiform manner, by these absorptions. For these absorptions constituted the moments of the soul’s feeding and harmonization, and they enriched and concentrated it, for the service of its fellows, the occasion of further self-enlargement. And these absorptions, with their combination of experienced fruitfulness and undeniable obscurity, for the very soul that[229] has passed through them, when this soul has returned to ordinary consciousness, give to all, even to the most lucid of her sayings, a beautiful margin of mist and mystery, a never-ceasing sense of the incomprehensibility, and yet of the soul’s capacity for an intellectual adumbration, of the realities and truths in which our whole spiritual life is rooted,—realities and truths which she is thus, without even a touch of inconsistency, ever struggling to apprehend and to communicate a little less inadequately than before.

5. Catherine’s teaching.

Catherine’s teaching, as we have it, is, at first sight, strangely abstract and impersonal. God nowhere appears in it, at least in so many words, either as Father, or as Friend, or as Bridegroom of the soul. This comes no doubt, in part, from the circumstance that she had never known the joys of maternity, and had never, for one moment, experienced the soul-entrancing power of full conjugal union. It comes, perhaps, even more, from her somewhat abnormal temperament, the (in some respects) exclusive mentality which we have already noted. But it certainly springs at its deepest from one of the central requirements and experiences of her spiritual life; and must be interpreted by the place and the function which this apparently abstract teaching occupies within this large experimental life of hers which stimulates, utilizes, and transcends it all. For here again we are brought back to her rare thirst, her imperious need, for unification; to the fact that she was a living, closely knit, ever-increasing spiritual organism, if there ever was one.

This unification tended, in its reasoned, theoretic presentation, even to overshoot the mark: for it would be impossible to press those of her sayings in which her true self appears as literally God, or her state of quiet as a complete motionlessness or even immovability. Yet in practice this unification ever remained admirably balanced and fruitful, since, in and for her actual life, it was being ever conceived and applied as but a whole-hearted, constantly renewed, continuously necessary, costing and yet enriching, endeavour to harmonize and integrate the ever-increasing elements and explications of her nature and experience. And even on the two points mentioned, her theory gives an admirably vivid presentment of the prima facie impression produced by its deepest experiences upon every devoted soul.

And on other points her theory is, even as such, admirably[230] sober, closely knit, and stimulating. For, as to the cause of Evil, she ever restricts herself to finding it in her own nature, and to fighting it there: hence the personality of Evil, though nowhere denied, yet rarely if ever concerns her, and never does so directly in her strenuous and practical life. Yet, on the other hand, this fight takes, with her, the form not primarily of a conflict with this or that particular fault, these several conflicts then summing themselves up into a more or less interconnected warfare; but it makes straight for the very root-centre of all the particular faults, and, by constantly checking and starving that, suppresses these. And hence the Positive, Radical character of Evil is, in practice, continuously emphasized by her.

Yet this root-centre of Evil within her was most certainly not conceived by her as a merely general and abstract false self or self-seeking. Her biographers, mostly over-anxious to prove the innocence of her nature, even at the expense of the heroism of her life and of the reasonableness and truthfulness of her statements, are no doubt responsible for the constant air of would-be devout and amiable (!) exaggeration which she wears on all this self-fighting side of her. Yet we have, I think, but to take the simplest and most authentic of the rival accounts,—those which give us the smallest quantity of self-denunciation, and we can understand the quality of this self-blame, and can fix its special, entirely concrete and pressing, occasion and object. For considering the immense claimfulness, the cruel jealousy, the tyrannous fancifulness, the brooding inventiveness, the at last incurable absoluteness of the weak and bad side and tendency of a temperament and natural character such as hers, had it been allowed to have its way, there is, I think, nothing really excessive or morbid, nothing that is not most healthy and humble, and hence sensible and admirably self-cognitive and truthful, about this heroic strenuousness, this ever-watchful, courageous fear of self, and those declarations of hers that this false self was as bad as any devil. To such a temperament and attrait as hers only one master could be deliberately taken, or could be long borne, as centre of the soul: God or Self;—not two: God and Self. And hence all practice on even tolerance of, as it were, separate compartments of the soul; all “a little of this, and not too much of that” spirit; all “making the best of both worlds” temper; all treatment of religion as a means to other ends, or as so much uninterpreted inheritance and[231] dead furniture or fixed and frozen possession of the mind, or as a respectable concomitant and condiment or tolerable parasite to other interests: all such things must have been more really impossible to her than would have been the lapse into self-sufficiency and self-idolatry, and the attempt to find happiness in such a downward unification.

And the one true divine root-centre of her individual soul is ever, at the same time, experienced and conceived as present, in various degrees and ways, simply everywhere, and in everything. All the world of spirits is thus linked together; and a certain slightest remnant of a union exists even between Heaven and Hell, between the lost and the saved. For there is no absolute or really infinite Evil existent anywhere; whilst everywhere there are some traces of and communications from the Absolute Good, the Source and Creator of the substantial being of all things that are. And to possess even God, and all of God, herself alone exclusively, would have been to her, we can say it boldly, a truly intolerable state, if this state were conceived as accompanied by any consciousness of the existence of other rational creatures entirely excluded from any and every degree or kind of such possession. It is, on the contrary, the apprehension of how she, as but one of the countless creatures of God, is allowed to share in the effluence of the one Light and Life and Love, an effluence which, identical in essential character everywhere, is not entirely absent anywhere: it is the abounding consciousness of this universal bond and brotherhood, this complete freedom from all sectarian exclusiveness and from all exhaustive appropriation of God, the Sun of the Universe, by any or all of the just or unjust, upon all of whom He shines: it is all this that constitutes her element of unity, saneness, and breadth, the one half of her faith, and the greater part of her spiritual joy.

And the other half of her faith constitutes her element of difference, multiplicity and depth, and is itself made up of two distinct convictions. No two creatures have been created by God with the same capacities; and, although they are each called by Him to possess Him to the full of their respective capability, they will necessarily, even if they all be fully faithful to their call, possess Him in indefinitely and innumerably various degrees and ways. And, so far, there is still nothing but joy in her soul. Indeed we can say that the previous element of unity and breadth calls for this second[232] element of diversity and depth; and that only in and with the other can each element attain to its own full development and significance, and thus the two together can constitute a living whole.

But the second conviction as to difference is a sombre and saddening one. For she holds further that the diversity is not only one of degrees of goodness and a universal fulness of variously sized living vessels of life and joy; but that there is also a diversity in the degree of self-making or self-marring on the part of the free-willing, self-determining creatures of God. Here too she still, it is true, finds the omnipresent divine Goodness at work, and in a double fashion and degree. The self-marring of some, probably, in her view, of most souls, gets slowly and blissfully albeit painfully unmade by the voluntary acceptance, on the part of these souls, of the suffering rightly attaching, in a quite determinist manner, to all direct, deliberate, and detached pleasure-seeking of the false self. And this is Purgatory, which is essentially the same whether thus willed and suffered in this world or in the next. And the self-marring of other, probably the minority of, sinful souls, though no longer capable of any essential unmaking, is yet in so far overruled by the divine Goodness (which, here as everywhere, is greater than the creature’s badness), that even here there ever remains a certain residue of moral goodness, and that a certain mitigation of the suffering which necessarily accompanies the remaining and indeed preponderant evil is mercifully effected by God. And this is Hell, which is essentially the same, whether thus, as to its pain, not willed but suffered here or hereafter. Thus she neither holds an Apocatastasis, a Final Restitution of all things,—what might be called a Universal Purgatory, nor a Gradual Mitigation of the sufferings of the lost; but the eventual complete purgation and restitution applies only to some, though probably to most, souls, and the mitigation of this suffering, in the case of the lost, is not gradual but instantaneous.

Here again, then, we find her thirst for unification strikingly at work. For she discovers one single divine Goodness as active and efficient throughout the universe; and she everywhere finds spiritual pain to consist in the discordance felt by the rational creature between its actual contingent condition and its own indestructible ideal, and such pain to be everywhere automatically consequent upon deliberate acts of self-will. Hence the suffering is nowhere separately willed or[233] separately sent by God; and, in all cases of restoration, the suffering, in proportion as it is freely willed by the sufferer, is ever medicinal and curative and never vindictive. It is these considerations which make her able to endure this sombre side of reality.

Now it is all this second set of beliefs, all this faith in diversity, multiplicity, and depth, which prevents any touch of real Pantheism or Indifferentism from defacing the breadth of her outlook, and effectually neutralizes any tendency to a sheer Optimism or Monism. She loves God’s Light and Love so much, that she is indefatigable in seeking, and constantly happy in finding, and incapable of not loving, even the merest glimpses of it, everywhere. And yet, precisely on that same account, everywhere the central passion of her soul is given to fostering the further growth of this Light and Love, to already loving it even more as it will or may be than as it already is, and thus deeply loving it already, in order that it may be still more lovable by and by. And thus the universality, and what we may call the particularity, of God’s self-communication and of the creature’s response, are equally preserved, and in suchwise that each safeguards, supplements, and stimulates the other. And thus her grace-stimulated craving, both for indefinite expansion and breadth and for indefinite concentration and depth, is met and nourished by this width and distance, this clarity and dimness of outlook on to the rich and awe-inspiring greatness of God and of His world of souls.

And union with this one Centre is, for all rational free-willing creatures, to be achieved, at any one and at every moment, by the whole-hearted willing and doing, by the full endorsing, of some one thing,—some one unique state and duty offered to the soul in that one unique moment. Thus life gets apparently broken up into so many successive steps and degrees of work, each to be attended to as though it were the first and last; and as so much special material and occasion for the practice of unification, ostensibly in the matter supplied and for the moment which supplies it, but really in the soul to which it is offered and for the totality of its life. Her soul is, even if taken at any one moment, and still more, of course, if considered in its successive history, overflowing with various acts, with (as it were) so many numberless waves and wavelets, currents and cross-currents of volition; and the warp and woof of her life’s weaving is really close-knit[234] with numberless threads of single willings, preceded and succeeded by single perceptions, conceptions, and feelings of the soul. Yet the very fulness of this flow and the closeness of this weaving, their great and ever-increasing orderliness and spontaneity, such as we can and must conceive them to have been present during the majority of the moments of her convert and waking life, tended, during such times, to obliterate any clear consciousness of their different constituents, and to produce the impression of one single state, even one single act. And this very action, even inasmuch as thus felt to be simple and one, is furthermore experienced psychically as a surprise and seizure from without, rather than as a self-determination from within. And this psychic peculiarity is taken by her as but the occasion and emotional, quasi-sensible picturing of the ever-present and ever-growing experience and conviction that all right human action, the very self-donation of the creature, is the Creator’s best gift, and that the very act of her own mind and heart, in all its complete inalienableness and spontaneity, is yet, in the last resort, but an illumination and stimulation coming from beyond the reaches of her own mind and will, from the mind and will of God. And thus Ethics are englobed by Religion, Having by Doing, and Doing by Being: yet not so that, in her fullest life, any of the higher things suppress the lower, but so that each stimulates the very things that it transcends.

6. Catherine’s literary obligations. Her corrections of the Neo-Platonist positions.

We shall trace further on how largely and spontaneously she has, from out of the many different possible types and forms of spirituality, chosen out, assimilated and further explicated certain Platonic and especially certain Neo-Platonic conceptions. We shall be unable to suggest any likely intermediary, or to assume with certainty a direct derivation, for these conceptions from Plato, or indeed from Plotinus or Proclus; and shall nevertheless be obliged to postulate some now untraceable communication, on some most important points, between Plato and herself. Besides this, she derives one Platonic conception from the Book of Wisdom and a corresponding passage in St. Paul; and a certain general Platonic tone and imagery from the Joannine Gospel and First Epistle. Her Neo-Platonism, on the contrary, she derives, massively and all but pure, through two of the Pseudo-Dionysian books and her dearly loved Franciscan Mystic[235] Poet, Jacopone da Todi. It is indeed to the Pauline, Joannine, Dionysian, and Jacopone writings that she owes, with the exception of a certain group of Platonic conceptions, practically all that she did not directly derive from her own psychical and spiritual experiences.

Now her assimilation of this particular strain of doctrine has remained but partial and theoretical with respect to those parts of Dionysian Neo-Platonism which were not borne out by the facts of her own Christian experience; but it has extended even to her emotional attitude and practice, in cases where the doctrine was borne out by these facts.

Thus we shall find that she often speaks theoretically of Evil as simply negative, as the varyingly great absence of Good. Yet, in practice and in her autobiographical picturings, she fights her bad self, to the very last, as a truly positive force. The force of God is everywhere conceived as indefinitely greater, as, indeed, alone infinite; yet the force of Evil is practically experienced and pictured as real and positive also, in its kind and degree.

Again, she often speaks as though her spiritual life had, at some one particular moment, simply arrived at its final culmination, and had attained God and perfection with complete finality,—such, at least, as this particular soul of hers can achieve. Yet, very shortly after, we find her unmistakably in renewed movement and conflict, and observe her mind to be now fully aware of that past “perfection” having been but imperfect, because that act or state is now seen from a height higher than that former level: hence that “perfection” was perfect, at most, in relation to its helps and opportunities in and for its own special moment.

Again, it is at times as though she conceived her body to be a sheer clog and prison-house to the soul, and as though the soul’s weakness and sinfulness were essentially due to its union with the flesh. But here especially her later commentators have amplified and systematized her teaching almost beyond recognition; the authentic sayings of this kind, though too strong to be pressed, are few, and belong exclusively to the last stages of her illness; and, above all, these declarations are checked and entirely eclipsed by her normal and constant view as to the specific nature of Moral Evil. For this Evil consists, for her, essentially in the self-idolatry, the claimful self-centredness of the natural man, ever tending, in a thousand mostly roundabout ways, to make[236] means and ends, centre and circumference, Sun and Planet change places, and to put some more or less subtle wilfulness and pleasure-seeking in the place of Duty, Happiness, and God. Few, even amongst the Saints, can have realized and exemplified more profoundly the indelible difference between pleasure and happiness, between the false and the true self; and few have more keenly, patiently felt and taught that the soul’s true life is, even eventually, not a keeping or a getting what the lower instincts crave: but that, on the contrary, a whole world of pleasures which, however base and short and misery-productive, can be intensely and irreplaceably pleasurable while they last, has successively to be sacrificed, for good and all; and that what is retained has gradually to proceed from other motives, to be grouped around other centres, and be ever only a part and a servant, and never a master or the whole. The gulf between every kind of Auto-centricism and the Theo-centric life, between mere Eudaemonism and Religion, could not be found anywhere more constant or profound.

Again, it is at times as though the absence or suppression of even the noblest of human fellow-feelings and of particular parental and friendly, attachments, and not their purification and deepening, multiplication and harmonization, were the end and aim of perfection. But little or nothing of this belongs, I think, to any deliberate and enduring theory of hers, still less to her full and normal practice; and the impression of such inhumanity is, in so far as it is derived from authentic documents, entirely caused by and restricted to her early convert reaction, and her late over-strained or worn-out psycho-physical condition.

Again, it is sometimes as though she believed indeed in an energizing and progress of the soul, yet held this progress to be, after conversion, an absolutely unbroken, equable, necessary and automatic increase in perfection; and that such a soul’s last state is, necessarily and in all respects, better than were its previous stages.—The Redactors of her life most undoubtedly think this. Because, for instance, she was Matron from 1490 to 1496, and could no more fill the post from 1496 to 1510:—therefore “not to give part of her activity to such external work was more perfect than to give it,” is the argument that underlies their scheme for these two periods.—Yet I can find nothing in her teaching to show that she held any such view. She was, indeed, ever too much absorbed,[237] by the experiences and duties of her successive moments, to find even the leisure of mind requisite for the manufacture of so doctrinaire a system. And indeed there is nothing in the conception of sanctity, or in that of a gradual and general increase in generosity and purity of the saintly soul’s dispositions and intentions, which requires us to hold that such a soul’s last state and efficiency is, in every respect, better than the first. For the range and volume of the efficiency, wisdom, balance, appropriateness of even our goodness is not determined by our will and the graces given to our will alone. Physical and psychical health and strength, illness and weakness; helps and hindrances from friends and foes; the changing influences and limitations of growing age; and the ever-shifting combinations of all these and of similar things,—things and combinations which are all but indirectly attainable by our wills in any way: all this is ever as truly at work upon us as our wills and God’s spiritual graces are in operation directly within ourselves. And if Catherine’s richness, breadth and balance of soul are, considering her special and successive health and circumstances, remarkable up to the very end, and probably actually grew to some extent with the growing obstacles, yet those qualities hardly grew or could grow pari passu with these obstacles. The manifold efficiency and the unity in multiplicity were distinctly greater before 1496 than after. And thus the Saints too join their lowlier brethren in paying the pathetic debt of our common mortality. They too can be called upon to survive the culmination of their many-sided power, and to retain perpetual youth only as regards their intention and the central ideas and the spiritual substance of their soul.

Once more she seems as though, to make up for this apparent suppression of the element of time, unduly to press the category of space, at least in her contemplations. We shall see how often in these contemplations God Himself, and the soul, or at least its various states, appear as places; so that the whole spiritual life and world come thus to look rather like an atomic co-ordination, a projection on to space and a static mechanism, than an interpenetrative subordination, a production in time or at least in duration, and a dynamic organism.—Yet it will be found that all this imagery is consciously, though no doubt quite naturally, used only as imagery, and that it is thus used both because it was spontaneously presented to her mind by her psychic peculiarities[238] and because it readily adapted itself as a vehicle to express one of the deepest experiences and convictions of her spirit.

For her psychic peculiarities involved, on the one hand, a curiously rapid and complete change and difference of states of consciousness, and, on the other hand, a remarkable absence (or at least dimness) of consciousness as to this transition itself, which, however abrupt, was of course as truly a part of her inner life as were the several completed states and outlooks. Now the apparently static element and harmony in any one of these states could, of course, be at all clearly presented in no other form than that of a spacial image; whereas the changing element in all these states seems to have accumulated chiefly in the subconscious region, to have at last suddenly burst into the conscious sphere, and to have there effected the change too rapidly to permit of, or at least to require, the presentation of this element as such, a presentation which could only have taken the form of a consciousness of time or of duration. From all this it follows that, to her immediate psychic consciousness, each of her successive experiences presented itself as ever one spacial picture, as one “place.”

And the imagery, thus quasi-automatically presented to her, could not fail to be gladly used and emphasized by her to express the deepest experiences of her spiritual life. For it was the element of simultaneity, of organic interpenetration, of the God-like Totum Simul, which chiefly impressed her in these deepest moments. And hence the soul is conceived by her as, in its essence, eternal rather than an as immortal—as, in its highest reaches and moments, outside of time and not as simply wholly within it; and as, on such occasions, vividly though indirectly conscious of the fact. Heaven itself is thought of not as eventually succeeding, with its own endless succession, to the finite succession of these our fleeting earthly days; but as already forming the usually obscure, yet ever immensely operative, background, groundwork, measure and centre of our being, now and here as truly as there and then. And hence again, Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell are for her three distinct states of the soul, already effected in their essence here below, and experienced as what they are, in part and occasionally here, and fully and continuously hereafter. Thus the fundamental cleavage in the soul’s life is not between things successive,—between the Now and the Then, and at the[239] point of death; but between things simultaneous, between the This and the That, and at the point of sin and of self-seeking.

And finally, she seems at times to speak Greek-wise, as though the soul’s life consisted essentially, or even exclusively, in an intellection, a static contemplation. Yet we have already seen how robust and constant is her ethical dualism, how essentially, here below at least, happiness consists for her in a right affection and attachment, in the continuous detaching of the true self from the false self, and the attaching of the true self unto God. And we should note how that intellection itself is conceived as ever accompanied by a keen sense of its inferiority to the Reality apprehended, and as both the result and the condition and the means of love and of an increase of love. And again we should note that this sense of inferiority does not succeed the intellection, as the result of any reasoning on the disparity between the finite and Infinite, but accompanies that intellection itself, and corresponds to the surplusage of her feelings over her mental seeings, and of her experience over her knowledge. And we should add the fact that, in the most emphatic of her sayings, she makes the essence of Heaven to consist in the union of the finite with the Infinite Will; and that this doctrine alone would seem readily to harmonize with her favourite teaching as to Heaven beginning here below.

7. Her attitude towards Historical and Institutional Religion.

If the Platonic and Neo-Platonic elements appear, at first sight, as massive and even excessive constituents of Catherine’s doctrine, Historical and Institutional Christianity seems, on a cursory survey, to contribute strangely little even to her practice. Not one of her ordinary contemplations is directly occupied with any scene from Our Lord’s life. The picture of the “Pietà,” so impressive to her in her nursery-days; the great Conversion-Vision of the Bleeding Christ; and the slighter cases of the signing of herself with the sign of the Cross and of her lying with outstretched arms, which occurred during the last stage of her illness, are the sole indications of any immediate occupation with the Passion; whilst the two cases of the Triptych “Maestà” and the painting representative of Our Lord at the well, (cases which indicate an attraction to the Infancy and to at least one incident of the Public Life,) complete the list of all direct attention to any incidents of Our Lord’s earthly existence. As to occupation with or[240] invocation of the Saints, inclusive of the Blessed Virgin, I can find but one instance, the invocation of St. Benedict, two days before her Conversion. We have seen, as to Sacramental Confession, how little there can have been of it, throughout the long middle period of her Convert Life; and how she was, during this time, simply without any priestly guidance. And she never was a Tertiary, nor did she belong to any Confraternity, nor did she attempt to gain Indulgences, nor did she practise popular devotions, such as the Rosary or Scapular.

Nor could these facts be quite fairly met, except to a certain relatively small extent with regard to Confession, by insistence upon the changing character of the Church’s discipline, if we thus mean to assert that she did not, in these matters, act exceptionally with regard to the practice and theory of fervent souls of her own time. For, on all the points mentioned, the ordinary fervent practice was already, and had been for centuries, different; and, in the matter of priestly guidance, her chroniclers have not failed to transmit to us the wonders and murmurs of more than one contemporary.

Yet here again the prima facie impression is but very incompletely borne out by a closer study.

For first, none of these historical and institutional elements are ever formally excluded, or attacked, or slighted. Indeed, in the matter of Indulgences, we have seen how she arranged or allowed that monies of her own should be spent in procuring certain facilities for gaining them by others.

And next, special practices, more than equivalent in their irksomeness, are throughout made to take the place of ordinary practices, in so far and for so long as these latter are abstained from. An unusually severe ascetical penitential time, and then the rarest watchfulness and continuous self-renouncement, take thus, for a considerable period, the place of the sacramental forms of Penance.

And thirdly, if there is an unusual rarity in Confession there is an almost as rare frequency of Communion; and authentic anecdotes show us how she scandalized some good souls as truly-by this frequency as by that rarity. Indeed throughout her convert life, an ardent devotion to the Holy Eucharist forms the very centre of her daily life; during probably thirty-five years she only quite exceptionally misses daily Communion; and she has the deepest attraction to the Mass, and a holy envy of priests for their close relation to the[241] Blessed Sacrament. And though there are no contemplations of hers directly occupied with the Holy Eucharist, yet we shall find this experience and doctrine to have profoundly shaped and coloured teachings and apprehensions which, at first sight, are quite disconnected with It. We can already see how all-inclusive a symbol and stimulation of her other special attractions and conceptions this central devotion could not fail to be. She found here the Infinite first condescending to the finite; so that the finite may then rise towards the Infinite; the soul’s life, a hunger and a satisfaction of that hunger, through the taste of feeling rather than through the sight of reason; God giving Himself through such apparently slight vehicles, in such short moments, and under such bewilderingly humble veils; and our poor a priori notions and a posteriori analyses thus proved inadequate to the living soul and the living God.—Extreme Unction also was highly esteemed: she spontaneously demanded it some four times and finally received it with great fervour. Church hymns too—witness the “Veni, Creator,” chanted on her death-bed—and liturgical lights are spontaneously used.

And lastly, her practice in the matter of Confession and of priestly advice became, during her last thirteen years identical in frequency with that of her devout contemporaries; and thus her life ended with the practice, on all the chief points, of the average, ordinary devotional acts and habits of her time. And this final practice of the ordinary means, together with her life-long dislike of singularity and of notice; her humble misgivings in the midst of her most peaceful originalities, and the utter absence of any tendency to think her way, inasmuch as it was at all singular, the only way or even the best way, except just now and here for her own self alone; her complete freedom from the spirit of comparing self with others, of dividing off the sheep from the goats, or of having some short, sure, and universal means or test for holiness: all this shows us plainly how Catholic and unsectarian, how truly free, not only from slavish fear and pusillanimous conformity, but also from all enthralment to merely subjective fancies, from all solipsism or conceit was her strong soul.

8. Three stages of the Spiritual Life; Catherine represents the third.

It has been well said that there are three stages of the spiritual life, and three corresponding classes of souls.


There are the souls that are characterized, even to the end of their earthly lives, by that, more or less complete, naturalistic Individualism, with which we all in various degrees begin. Catherine’s own time and country were full of such thoroughly Individualistic, unmoral or even anti-moral men, who, however gifted and cultivated as artists, scholars, philosophers, and statesmen, must yet be counted as essentially childish and as clever animals rather than as spiritual men. And she herself had, during the five years which had preceded her conversion, tended, on the surface of her being, towards something of this kind.

Next come the souls that have recognized and have accepted Duty and Obligation, that are now striving to serve God as God, and that are attempting, with a preponderant sincerity, to live the common and universal life of the Spirit. These of necessity tend to suspect, or even to suppress and sacrifice, whatever appears to be peculiar to themselves, as so much individualistic subjectivity and insidious high treason to the objective law of Him who made their souls, and who now bids them save those souls at any cost. The large majority of the souls that were striving to serve God in Catherine’s times belonged, as souls belong in these our days, and will necessarily and rightly belong up to the end, to this second, universalistic, uniformative type and class. And Catherine herself evidently belonged prominently to this type and class, during her first four convert years.

And there are, finally, an ever relatively small number of souls that are called, and a still smaller number that attain, to a state in which the Universality, Obligation, Uniformity, and Objectivity, of the second stage and class, take the form of a Spiritual Individuality, Liberty, Variety, and Subjectivity: Personality in the fullest sense of the term has now appeared. And this fullest Spiritual Personality is the profoundest opposite and foe of its naturalistic counterfeit, of those spontaneous animal liberalisms which reigned, all but unrecognized as such because all but uncontrasted by the true ideal and test of life, prior to that prostration before absolute obligation, that poignant sense of weakness and impurity, and that gain of strength and purity from beyond its furthest reaches, experienced by the soul at its conversion.

Yet that merely subjective, liberalistic Individualism of the first stage can only be kept out, even at the third stage, by retaining within the soul all the essential characteristics of the[243] second stage,—by a continuous passing and re-passing under the Caudine Forks of the willed defeat of wayward, self-pleasing wilfulness, and of the deliberate acceptance of an objective system of ideas and experiences as interiorly binding upon the self. For if the second stage excludes the first, the third stage does not exclude the second. Yet now all this, in these rare souls, leads up to and produces a living reality bafflingly simple in its paradoxical, mysterious richness. For now the universality, obligation, and objectivity of the Law become and appear greater, not less, because incarnated in an eminently unique and unreproduceable, in a fully personal form. And at this stage only do we find a full persuasiveness.

Catherine attained unmistakably, after her four years of special penitence, to this rare third stage. For not only is she essentially as individual and unique as if she were not universal and uniform; and essentially as universal and uniform as if she were not individual: but she is indefinitely more truly original and subjective, because of her voluntary boundness and objectivity. Indeed she is solidly and really free and personal, because the continuous renunciation and expulsion of all naturalistic individuality remains, to the very end, one of the essential functions of her soul.

From all this it is clear how easy it would be to misread the lesson of her manifold life, and to turn such examples as hers from a help into a hindrance. For her melancholy temperament, her peculiar psychic health, her final external inefficiency: all this is too striking not to tempt the admiration, perhaps even, the hopeless and ruinous imitation, of such crude and inexperienced souls as know not how to distinguish between the merely given materials and untransferable determinisms of each separate soul’s psychical and temperamental native outfit, and the free, grace-inspired and grace-aided use made by each soul of these its, more or less unique, occasions and materials. Those materials were, of themselves, of no moral worth, and lent themselves only in part with any ease to the upbuilding and realization of her spirit’s ideal. And it is only this, her wise and heroic use of her materials,—though this also, of course, is not directly transferable,—that represents the spiritually valuable constituent of the life.

Similarly with the form, and the psychic occasions or accompaniments of her very prayer and spiritual absorptions, and with some of the constituents of her doctrine, if taken as[244] speculative and analytic and final, rather than as psychological and descriptive and preliminary. These things again could easily be misused. For the former are largely quite special and, in themselves, morally indifferent peculiarities, transformed and utilized by quite special graces and life-long spiritual heroisms. And the latter, we shall find, were never intended to be systematic, complete or ultimate; and indeed they owe their true force and value to their being the occasional, spontaneous and immediate expressions and adumbrations of an experience indefinitely richer and more ultimate than themselves.

And finally, it would of course be absurd to take the limitations of her activity and interests, even if we were to restrict ourselves to those common to all the stages of her life, as necessarily admirable, or as universally inevitable. For there is, in the very nature of things, no equation between her one soul, however rich and stimulating, or even all the souls of her class and school, or of her age or country, on the one hand, and the totality of religious experience, and its means and incorporations, on the other hand, even if, by totality, we but mean that part of it already achieved and accepted by grace-impelled mankind.

9. The lessons of Catherine’s life.

And yet Catherine’s life and teaching will be found full of suggestion and stimulation, if they are taken in their interpenetration, and if due regard is paid to their fragmentary registration, to the necessary distinction between what, amongst all these facts, was mere means, occasion, and temporal setting, and what amongst them was aim and end, utilization and abiding import, and to the fact that all this experience is but one out of the indefinitely many applications, extensions, and mutually corrective and supplementary exemplifications of the spirit and life of Christ, as it lives itself out throughout the temperaments, races and ages of mankind. Above all it can teach us, I think, with a rare completeness, wherein lies the secret of a persuasive holiness. For Catherine lets us see, with unusual clearness, how this winningness lies in the pathetically dramatic spectacle and appeal presented by a life engaged in an ever-increasing ethical and spiritual energizing,—whether in a slow shifting and pushing of its actual centre, down and in from the circumference of the soul to its true centre, and from this true centre enlarging and reorganizing its whole ever-expanding being again and again; or in an apparently sudden finding[245] itself placed, and loyally placing itself, in this true centre, and then from there prosecuting and maintaining the organization and transformation of its varyingly peripheral life, a life treated at one time as central and complete. And this persuasiveness can here be discovered to be greater or less in proportion to the thoroughness and continuousness of this centralization and purification; to the degree in which this issues in a new, spontaneously acting ethico-spiritual personality; and to the closeness and costingness of the connection between those means and this result. Such a soul will be persuasive because of its ever seeking and finding a purifying intermediacy, a river of death, to all its merely naturalistic self-seeking.

And it is this nobly ascetic requirement and search and end which no doubt explain what, at first sight, is strange, both in its presence and in its attractiveness, in her own case and more or less in that of all the mature and complete Saints,—I mean, the large predominance of an apparently Pantheistic element in her life, the strong emphasis laid upon an apparent Thing-Conception of God and of the human spirit.

It was clearly not alone because of the Neo-Platonist element and influence of the books she chiefly used that she, in true Greek fashion, finds and allows so large a place for conceptions of things, for images derived from the natural elements, and for mental abstractions, in her religious experiences and teachings: God appearing in them predominantly as Sun, Light, Fire, Air, Ocean; Beauty, Truth, Love, Goodness. For, after all, other elements could be found in these very books, and other writings were known to her besides these books: hence this her preference for just these elements still demands an explanation.

Nor was it ultimately because, nervously high-pitched and strained as she was by nature, she even physically craved and required an immense expansion for this her excessive natural concentration. She thus evidently longed first to move through, and to bathe and rest and spread out her psychic self, in an ample region, in an enduring state of quasi-unconsciousness, in an (as it were) innocently animal or even simply vegetative objectivity, indeed in an apparent bare element and mere Thing, before, thus rested, braced, and as it were now healthily reconcentrated, she more directly met the Infinite Concentration and Determination, the Personal Spirit, God. For, after all, hers was so heroic a spirit, and so[246] self-distrustful, indeed self-suspecting, a heart, that a mere psychic affinity or requirement would have failed so permanently and deliberately to captivate her mind.

Nor, finally, was it ultimately because her domestic sorrows or inexperiences, or even her very psychic peculiarities and apparent lack of all even innocent sensuousness, left the images of Bride and Bridegroom, of Parent and Child, perhaps even of Friend, respectively painful, empty, or pale to her consciousness. For, even so, she could and did care, with a beautiful affectiveness of her own, for her brothers and sister, for Vernazza, her “spiritual son,” and for many a humble toiler or domestic. And indeed her whole tendency is ultimately to find God’s special home, the only one of His dwelling-places which we men really know, in the human heart of hearts.

The ultimate and determining reason was no doubt her deep spiritual experience and conviction (as vivid as ever was the psychic tendency which gave it form and additional emotional edge and momentum) that she must continuously first quench and drown her feverish immediacy, her clamorous, claimful false self, and must lose herself, as a merely natural Individual, in the river and ocean of the Thing, of Law, of that apparently ruthless Determinism which fronts life everywhere, before she could find herself again as a Person, in union with and in presence of an infinite Spirit and Personality.

Thus Greek Fate is here retained, but it is transformed through being transplaced. For Fate has here ceased to be ultimate and above the very gods, the poor gods who were so predominantly the mere projections of man’s Individualism: Fate is here intermediate and a way to God—the great God, the source and ideal of all Personality. And indeed this Fate is not, ultimately, simply separate from God; it is indeed omnipresent, but everywhere only as the preliminary and subaltern, expression, for us men, of the Divine Freedom that lies hidden and operating behind it. And we men attain to some of this Freedom only by the inclusion within our spiritual life of that Fate-passage and of our actual constant passing through it, on and on.

10. Three points where Catherine is comparatively original; and a fourth point where she is practically unique.

In the general tendency and form of her inner life and conviction Catherine has, of course, substantially nothing but[247] what she shares with all the Mystics, in proportion as these retain Law, Ethics, and Personality; and she has much that forms part of the convictions of all Christians, indeed of all Theists. Yet in the degree and precise manner of her elaboration and application of those things, and again in the circumstances of their documentary transmission, Catherine will, I think, be found in three points comparatively original, and in a fourth point practically unique.

First she has, as we have seen, not only a strikingly persistent attitude of transcendence and detachment with regard to her psycho-physical state in general (this is indeed an attitude common to all ethically sound and fruitful Mystics: witness in particular St. John of the Cross); but she has also a most remarkable faculty and activity of discrimination between her own healthy and morbid states. Even this latter power she probably shares, in various degrees, with all such ethical-minded Mystics as nevertheless suffered from a partially maladif psycho-physical condition: witness especially St. Teresa.—Yet contemporary documentary evidence, for not only such actual variations between healthy and unhealthy states, but also for the Mystic’s knowledge of and witness to the existence of both and to the difference between the two, is necessarily rare. I know of no evidence more vivid and final, although of much that is larger in amount, than the evidence furnished by Catherine’s Vita.

And next she has both a constant, deep sense that religion never consists simply in ends but in means as well, and never ceases to use and practise the latter; and a concomitant keen apprehension of the difference between means and ends, and ever illustrates this sense of difference by the striking variety and liberty of the practical attitude which she is successively moved to take, and actually does take, towards this or that of the Institutional helps of the Church. Here again she but exemplifies a principle which underlies the practice of all the Saints, in proportion to their maturity and full normality. And indeed our Lord Himself, the Model and the King of Saints, when asked which was the greatest of the Commandments, did not answer that He could not and would not tell, since to distinguish at all between greater and lesser Commandments would be liberalism; but, on the contrary, fully endorsed and canonized such a distinction and discrimination, by actually pointing out two Commandments as the greatest, and by declaring that from them depended all the law and[248] the prophets. Hence to organize, and more and more to find and give their right, relative place and influence to all the different things practised and believed, is as important as is the corresponding practice and acceptance of all these different things. Yet, here again, full evidence both for such fidelity and docility and for such variety and liberty of soul, with regard to the means of religion, is rare: the records of the modern Saints mostly give us but the docility; those of the Fathers of the desert generally give us but the liberty: Catherine’s Vita gives us both.

And thirdly, she is, amongst formally canonized Saints, a rare example of a contemplative and mystic who, from first to last, leads at the same time the common life of marriage and of widowhood in the world. Here again any misapprehension of the importance or significance of this fact would readily lead to folly. For it is undeniable that it has been the monastic life which, in however great variations of degree, form and lasting success, has furnished Christendom at large with an impersonation of self-renunciation sufficiently isolated, massive and continuous, to be deeply impressive upon the sluggish spiritual apprehension of the average man. And indeed self-renunciation is so universally necessary and so universally difficult; upon its presence and activity religion, and all and every kind of rational human life depend so largely; without its tonic presence they are so necessarily but a dilettantism, a delusion or an hypocrisy: that to body it forth for all men must ever remain an honour and a duty specially incumbent upon some kind of Monasticism. For it is but right, and indeed alone respectful, to the Spirit of God, so manifold and mysterious in its gifts and inspirations, that every degree and kind of healthy and heroic self-renunciation should be practised and embodied; and that special honour should attach to its most massive manifestations.

Yet our general knowledge of poor, rarely balanced human nature and our detailed historical experience respectively anticipate and demonstrate how easy it is, on this point also, to confound the means with the end, and a part with the whole. And by such confusion either self-renunciation, that very salt of all truly human existence, gets actually stapled up in one corner of the wide world and of multiform life; or this apparent stapling becomes but a pedantic pretence and would-be monopoly, the salt meanwhile losing all its savour. And these two abuses and errors easily coalesce and reinforce[249] each other. The fact is that the total work and duty of collective humanity,—the production of a maximum of true recollection, rest and detachment, effected in and through a maximum of right dispersion, action, and attachment; above all a maximum of ethico-spiritual transformation of the world and, in and through such work, of each single worker,—is too high for any single soul, or even class or vocation, to hope to exhaust. Only by all and each joining hands and supplementing each other can all these numberless degrees and kinds of call and goodness, together, slowly, throughout the ages, get nearer and nearer to that inexhaustible ideal which lies so deep and ineradicable within the heart of each and all. And thus will the two fundamental movements of the soul, as it were its expiration and its inspiration, the going out to gather and the coming home to garner, be kept up, in various degrees, by every human soul, and each soul and vocation will as keenly feel the need of supplementation, as it will apprehend the beauty and importance of the special contribution it is called to make to the whole, a whole, here as everywhere, greater than any of its parts, although requiring them each and all.—Now Catherine suggests and illustrates such a doctrine with rare impressiveness: for the pure and efficient love of God and man, the one end and measure for us all, ever consciously dominates all and every means within her admirably balanced and unified mind; and the renunciative element is, under mostly quite ordinary exterior forms, as complete and constant as it could be found anywhere.

And lastly, her doctrine contains one conviction, or group of convictions, as original as, in such matters, one can expect to find. We get here the soul’s voluntary plunge into Purgatory, its seeking and finding relief, from the now painful pleasure of sin, in the now joy-producing pain of purification; and the soul’s discovery and acquisition, if and when in predominantly good dispositions, of its ever-fuller peace and bliss, because its ever-increasing harmonization, in freely willing the suffering intrinsically consequent upon its own past evil pleasures and the resulting present imperfections of its will. And this cycle of facts and laws here springs from, and begins with, the soul’s life Here and Now, and is held to extend (on the ever-present assumption of the substantial persistence of the spirit’s fundamental spiritual properties and laws) to the soul’s life Then and There. Thus these two lives differ with her rather in extent and intensity than[250] in kind. I think that, taken just thus, and with this degree of explicitness, this group of convictions is practically unique. We shall study and illustrate this particular cycle of doctrine in full detail. But it is indeed time now to move on to a more systematic and general account of her teaching.



The attentive reader will no doubt have perceived how great have been the difficulties at every step taken, in the previous chapters, towards a critically clear and solid account of Catherine’s life. He will, then, be quite prepared again to find difficulties, though largely of another order, in the task that now lies before us,—the attempt at a clear and authentic reproduction of her teaching.

1. Four difficulties in the utilization of the sources.

The sources are, it is true, at first sight, fairly abundant,—altogether about one hundred of the two hundred and eighty pages of the Vita ed Opere. But four peculiarities render their utilization a matter of much labour and caution.

For one thing, they certainly include no piece written by herself, and probably none written down before 1497. Catherine’s memory can no doubt be trusted, and with it much of the oldest version of those great turning-points of her inner life which occurred long before that date, and which she thus, later on, communicated to her two closest friends. Yet hers was a mind so constantly absorbed in present experiences and in self-renewal as to be all but incapable of dwelling, in any detail, upon her past experiences or judgments.

And next, within and for this her “doctrinal,” her “widowed” and “suffering” period, we are perplexed by the total absence of logical or indeed of any other order in the presentation of these discourses and contemplations. We have either to do without any order at all, or to construct one for ourselves,—which latter course of itself already means a reconstruction of the book.

But far more delicate is the task presented by the third peculiarity,—the fact, demonstrated both by the internal evidence and analysis and by the external evidence of the MSS., of the bewildering variety of forms and connections in which one and the same doctrine, sometimes an obviously unique saying,[252] will appear. Six, ten, even twelve or more variants are the rule, not the exception. And I am specially thinking, under this heading, of contemporary variations—that is, variations of form that can reasonably be attributed either to her own initiative at work under differences of mood and of starting-point; or to the variety of the minds who apprehended and registered this teaching at the time of its delivery; or to both influences simultaneously. In the first case we get, say, her doctrine as to man’s weakness and sinfulness, in two moments of depression and consolation respectively, registered by one and the same disciple,—say, by Vernazza or by Marabotto. In the second case we get some such two sayings as rendered the one by Vernazza and the other by Marabotto severally. And in the third case we get both the depressed and the joyful original sayings, as they have passed through the minds of both Vernazza and Marabotto.

And lastly, we get another class, redactional variations; and these it is often as difficult as it is always necessary to detect. I mean the parallel passages, evolved in course of time by her attendants or constructed by successive redactors, more or less on the model of, but also with more or less of departure from, her own authentic sayings: blurred, partly inaccurate echoes, as it were, of her own living voice. These will generally have grown up but semi-consciously, or at least have arisen from simple motives of her glorification or of literary filling-in or rounding-off. For we must not forget the forty years which passed between her death and the Vita.

I am thinking here too of the theological limitations and corrections, introduced into the older text in the form of definite counter-statements, which we shall find to be especially visible in the Trattato; and of the, doubtless preponderatingly unconscious, modifications of an analogous kind which determined the composition of the Dialogo, and are traceable throughout that whole long work. For here again we have to remember how, between her living teachings, so ardent and familiar, so entirely from within and unoccupied with the world without, which reached up to 1510, and even the earliest MS. redaction of the contemporary jotting down of those sayings which we still possess,—that of 1547,—runs the great upheaval of the Protestant Reformation, beginning with Luther’s Theses of 1517. Catherine’s own fellow God-parent to Vernazza’s eldest daughter, the Doctor of Laws Tommaso Moro, had meanwhile become a Calvinist (1537), and then[253] had returned to the Catholic Obedience in 1539, first under this his God-daughter’s influence. No wonder that what, under the magic suasion of her living personality, in times as yet free from the controversial and polemical tone and temper, and through and for her friends already won to and comprehensive of her teachings, had been certainly registered, and perhaps for a while transmitted, in its own pristine, winningly daring and unguarded, form, would, with her old friends dead and a new generation grown up and engrossed in attack and defence of various points of the Catholic position, be felt to require tempering and safeguarding, rewriting and controversial utilization. Hence we get three successive steps. The theological counter-statements in the Trattato, probably introduced between 1524 and 1530. The controversial point and utilization attempted in the very title of the Vita which promises, “una utile e cattolica dimostrazione e declarazione del Purgatorio,” and in the Preface, which declares the book to contain things “specially necessary in these our turbulent times,” touches which go back probably to 1536, perhaps even to 1524-1530. And the composition of the entire Dialogo, hardly begun before 1546.[221]

It is interesting to note how neither for the approbation of the first edition in 1551 (by the Dominican Fra Geronimo of Genoa), nor during the examination by the Congregation of Rites and the final approbation by Pope Innocent XI, 1677-1683, was any additional correction required or (as far as I know) even suggested. The latter point is particularly striking; for we have thus the very Pope who, in 1687, condemned Molinos’ teaching, solemnly approving Catherine’s doctrine four years before, after a seven years’ examination.

2. Catholic principles concerning the teaching of Canonized Saints.

Now it is a well-known principle of Catholic theology, propounded with classic clearness and finality by Pope Benedict XIV, in his standard work On the Beatification and Canonization of the Servants of God, that such an approbation of their sayings or writings binds neither the Church nor her individual members to more than the two points, which are alone necessary with respect to the possibility and advisability of the future Beatification and Canonization of the author of the sayings or writings in question. The Church and her[254] individual members are thus bound only to hold the perfect orthodoxy and Catholic piety of such a saintly writer’s intentions, and again the (at least interpretative) orthodoxy of these his writings, and their spiritual usefulness for some class or classes of souls. But every kind and degree of respectful but deliberate criticism and of dissent is allowed, if only based upon solid reasons and combined with a full acceptance of those two points.

And indeed it is plain that heroism in action and suffering is one thing, and philosophical genius, training and balance is another; and even, again, that deep and delicate experiences on the one hand, and the power of their at all adequate analysis and psychological description, are two things and not one. Still, it is also evident that in proportion as a Saint’s doctrine is, professedly or at all events actually, based upon or occasioned by his own experience will it rightly demand a double measure of respectful study. For, in such a case, we can be sure not only of the saintly intentions of the teacher, but also of his doctrines being an attempt, however partially successful, at expressing certain first-hand, unusually deep and vivid experiences of the religious life, experiences which, taken in their substance and totality, constitute the very essence of his sanctity.

Now this is manifestly the case with Catherine. And hence she furnishes us with those very conditions of fruitful discussion, so difficult to get in religious matters. On the one hand, her undoubted sanctity and the personal experimental basis of her doctrine gain for her our willingness, indeed determination, first of all patiently to study and assimilate and sympathetically to reconstruct her special spiritual world from her own inner starting- and growing-point, and all this, at this first stage, without any question as to the completeness or final truth and value of the intellectual analyses and syntheses of these experiences elaborated by herself. And, on the other hand, we find ourselves driven, at our second stage, to examine the literary sources and philosophical and theological implications of this her teaching—if pressed; and to make various respectful, but firm and free distinctions and reservations, with regard to these sources and affinities. For here, in these her analyses and syntheses, a special quality of her own temperament is ever at work, and causes her to express, as best she can, a concentration of a whole host of the strongest feelings concerning just the one point of that one[255] moment’s experience, with a momentary complete exclusion of all the rest. Here, again, her dependence, for her categories of thought and general language, imagery and scheme of doctrine, upon Fra Jacopone da Todi and upon the Pseudo-Dionysian writings is readily traceable,—the latter, compositions which we have only now succeeded in tracing, with final completeness and precision, to their predominantly Neo-Platonist source. And here we cannot but carefully consider the impressive series of Church pronouncements which have occurred since Catherine spoke and her devotees wrote. All these matters shall be carefully studied in the second volume.

3. The fortunate circumstances of Catherine’s teaching.

It was a rare combination of numerous special circumstances,—several of them unique,—which rendered possible the retention and indeed solemn approbation of the difficult and daring doctrine and language not rarely to be met with in the Vita (in contradistinction to the so-called Opere).

For one thing, the originator, the subject-matter and form, above all the school of her doctrine, all combined to secure it the largest possible amount of liberty and sympathetic interpretation. The originator, the soul from whom the doctrine had proceeded, had not herself written down one word of it; but she had spoken it all, warm from the very heart which loved and lived it: the cold and chilling process of deliberate composition had but little part in the whole matter, and that part was not hers. The subject-matter was not primarily dogmatic, and not at all political or legal; it dealt not with theological systems or visible institutions, but with the experiences of single souls: and at all times a great latitude has been allowed in such subject-matter, when proceeding, as here, from some saintly soul as the direct expression of its own experience. The form was not systematic, and aimed at no completeness; all was incidentally addressed to a few devoted disciples, in short monologues or homely conversations. The title Trattato, given later on to the collection of her detached thoughts on Purgatory, is thoroughly misleading; her whole spirit and form were precisely not that of the treatise. And the school to which she so obviously belonged was probably her chief protection. Indeed, the doctrinally difficult passages are, in a true sense, the least personal of her sayings: we shall find all their doctrinal presuppositions,—as to the immobility, indefectibility, deification of the soul; the possession by the[256] soul of God without means or measure; and the like,—to go back to the writings which, purporting to be by the Areopagite Dionysius, the Convert of St. Paul, but composed in reality between A.D. 490-520, so profoundly influenced all mystical thinking and expression for one thousand years and more of the Church’s life.

And again, the period during which the corpus of Catherine’s doctrine was in process of formation was specially favourable to such large toleration. For if she died in 1510, ten years before the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation, with its inevitable reaction, her chief chronicler, the saintly philanthropist Vernazza, did not die, a true martyr to that boundless love of souls which he had derived from his great-souled friend, till 1524; and her Confessor Marabotto did not depart till 1528. Thus her doctrine would remain substantially untouched and treasured up till some twenty years after her death, and thirteen years after the great upheaval.

We have already noted that (somewhere about 1528, and on to 1551) her teaching did meet with some opposition. It will be interesting to study (in the Appendix) how the objection arose and was met. Here it must suffice to point out that, whereas Catherine’s Purgatorial doctrine is free from any final difficulty on the score of orthodoxy, it is just that doctrine which was hedged in and glossed before all the rest; and that whereas other parts of her teaching, in the form given in the Vita, are full of such difficulty, they remain strangely unmodified to this very day. It will appear that the Dialogo was in part composed to perform an office towards those doctrinal chapters of the Vita, similar to that performed by the glosses in and towards the text of the Trattato. Hence the glosses of the Trattato will have, in the following collection of sayings, to be removed from my text, and the statements of the Dialogo will have to be ignored in my text. These glosses or re-statements shall be considered later on, whenever these additions or substitutions are of sufficient interest.

4. The theological order of presentation adopted.

Then again, it is far from easy to settle upon the right order and method of presentation. The more closely we study the chapters in question the more do we find that the strange discomfort and disgust, engendered by any lengthy reading of them, proceeds from the curiously infelicitous manner of their composition. These chapters, in so much as they supply genuine materials, consist of a large number of detached,[257] usually short sayings, of every kind of tone and mood, occasion and mental and emotional context and connotation, and yet all concerning but a few great central realities and truths. These sayings in themselves do not at all represent links in a chain of reasoning; they are numberless variations on some few fundamental experiences of the soul. Hence they require to be given in loose co-ordination, or in free grouping around some great central truth; somewhat like what is done, with such marked felicity, for Our Lord’s own sayings, which also are occasional and freely various, by the oldest of our Gospels, St. Mark. “And,” “and again,” can be used to join these recurrent similitudes, aspirations, emotional reflections; not “because” nor “therefore,” still less “firstly,” “secondly,” “thirdly,” as the Redactors have been so fond of doing. Hence the reader in the Vita feels himself in a constant state of abortive motion, and is ever being promised a precision which usually ends in vagueness.

Let us then group these parallel sayings around some few great central truths or dispositions. But what is the order of these great centres to be? Here again a difficulty occurs, and this time from the very nature of the doctrine concerned. For the special characteristic of her teaching, a teaching so largely derived both from her own intensely unitive character and (through the Dionysian writings, Proclus and Plotinus) from Plato himself, is precisely an infinitely close-woven organization, in which part vibrates in sympathy with part, in which each point carries with it the whole, and in which each one idea and feeling passes, as it were, right through, and colours and is coloured by all the rest. It would be almost as satisfactory to turn the impassioned discourse of Diotima in the Symposium into a series of numbered propositions, as here to try and detach any one feeling or idea from out of the living network of its fellows, in and through which it is, and gets and gives, its special self.

The historical order (i.e. the order in which, successively, each doctrine grew up and dominated her thinking) is, alas! as we have seen, out of the question.—The psychological order (i.e. the order in which the doctrines, such as we have them, would reproduce themselves within her own mind during that last period of her life, 1496-1510) would doubtless throw most light upon the special characteristics of her spirituality, and upon the hidden springs of her doctrine. But it is far too difficult, and must remain too largely hypothetical, to be even[258] distantly aimed at here and now: some such attempt will be made in a later chapter, with the help of the materials first collected and grouped here in a more conventional way.—The theological order (i.e. the order in which these doctrines would appear if made to find their places in an ordinary manual of scholastic theology) is the one that I shall here endeavour to follow as far as possible. For thus I can start with a scheme so thoroughly familiar as nowhere itself to require any explanation; and I can thus help to bring out, from the first, the characteristic peculiarities of the mystical position generally, and of her own variety of it in particular.

I will then take here, successively, her teachings as to God in Himself, and Creation; Sin, Redemption, and Sanctification; and the Last Things. But I do so quite loosely, for I shall try nowhere to break off any bridge that she herself has thrown across from one subject to the other, and shall be satisfied if I can succeed in grouping her doctrine even approximately within those three divisions, according to the predominance of this or that point of her teaching. And, for this, I shall not shrink from a repeated utilization of one and the same text, when (as happens so often) it looks in many directions, and becomes fully clear only in juxtaposition with various parts of her teaching.

5. Literary sources of Catherine’s teaching.

We have evidence, as regards literary influences, that Catherine fed her mind on three books or sets of books: the Bible, the Pseudo-Dionysian Treatises, and the Lode of Jacopone da Todi.

The allusions to passages of Scripture are continual, but mostly of a swiftly passing, combinatory, allegorizing kind. Direct quotations and attempts at penetrating the objective sense of particular passages are rare, for most of the direct quotations are clearly due to her historians, not to herself; yet they exist and put her direct study of Scripture beyond all doubt. Her favourite Bible books were evidently Isaiah and the Psalms, and the Pauline and Joannine writings. Some touches (remarkably few for a mystic) are derived from the Canticle of Canticles, and many less obvious ones from the Synoptic Gospels; but there are no certain traces, I think, of any other Old Testament books, nor, in the Pauline group, of any passage from the Pastoral Epistles.

The evidence for her direct knowledge and use of Dionysius is, it is true, but circumstantial. But the following three facts[259] seem, conjoined as they are in her case, sufficient to prove this knowledge. (i) We have already seen how her cousin and close spiritual friend, Suor Tommasa, wrote a devotional treatise on Denys the Areopagite, presumably before Catherine’s death, since Tommasa was sixty-two years of age in that year 1510; it would be strange indeed if Catherine did not, even if but from this quarter, get to know some of the Dionysian writings, perhaps even whilst they could still only be read in MS. form. (ii) Marsilio Ficino published in Florence, in 1492, his Latin translation of the Mystical Theology and of the Divine Names, with a copious commentary; and the book, dedicated to Giovanni de’ Medici, Archbishop of Florence and future Pope Leo X, found its way at once to all the larger centres of life, learning and devotion in Italy. Thus Catherine lived still eighteen years after the publication of this, the first printed, edition of any part of Denys (original or translation); even if she did not know these writings before, it seems again very unlikely that she would not get to know them now. (iii) There are, it is true, no direct quotations from Denys, nor does his name appear in the Vita ed Opere, except in that account of Suor Tommasa. But numerous sayings of Catherine bear, as we shall see later on, so striking a resemblance to passages in those two books of Denys, that it is difficult to explain them by merely mediate infiltration; and that those sayings ultimately, as to their literary occasion, go back to the Areopagite, is incontestable. I quote Denys from the usually careful translation of the Rev. John Parker: The Works of Dionysius the Areopagite, Pt. I, London, Oxford, 1897, with certain corrections of my own.

The proofs for her knowledge and love of Jacopone da Todi’s Italian “Praises” is, on the other hand, direct and explicit. The Vita, p. 37, makes her say: “Listen to what Fra Jacopone says in one of his Lode, beginning: ‘O amor di povertade,’” and then gives her word-for-word commentary on verse 23 of this his Loda LVIII. Words from this same verse are again quoted by her on p. 62; the opening line of this Loda is put into her mouth on p. 83; and another verse, the sixth, is quoted by her, as by the Blessed Jacopone, on p. 92. I have been able to find many other sayings of hers which are hardly less directly suggested by the great Umbrian than these. Here, again, she probably knew the Lode in MS. form, before they appeared in print in 1490; but will in any[260] case have known them in this their printed form. I have carefully studied in this, the first printed edition (Florence: Bonaccorsi), all the Lode bearing upon subjects and doctrines dear to Catherine. They are twenty in all, from among the hundred and two numbers of that collection.[222]

6. The Psycho-physical Occasions or Reflexes of her Doctrine. Her special reaction under and use of her literary sources shall be examined in a later chapter.

The psycho-physical occasions or reflexes of her various teachings, as far as the interconnection can be traced with probability, shall also be studied in the second volume. But already here I would have the reader clearly to understand, that nowhere are such psycho-physical conditions and experiences to be considered the causes of her doctrine, as though the lower produced the higher, and as though the spiritual were the automatic resultant and necessary precipitate of certain accidental, involuntary conditions in time and space. For everywhere such conditions can only, at best, be accepted as the occasions or materials for the development or illustration of some spiritual doctrine, or, contrariwise, as the psychic effects and embodiments of some vividly realized invisible truth or law; whilst this spiritual teaching itself is derived from far other and deeper causes,—the interaction of her own experience and free spiritual powers and of God’s grace, and the conflict of these with her own passions, the whole helped or hindered by the world without.

I. God as Creative Love. The Creature’s True and False Self; True and False Love.

1. Creation, an overflow of Goodness.

First, then, we will take the sayings about Creation, and the original, substantially indelible character of all created beings.[261] “I saw a sight which satisfied me much. I was shown the Living Fountain of Goodness, which was (as yet) all within Itself alone, without any kind of participation. And next I saw that It began to participate with the creature, and made that very beautiful company of Angels, in order that this company might enjoy His ineffable glory, without asking any other return from the Angels than that they should recognize themselves to be creatures created by His supreme goodness.… And hence, when they were clothed in sin by their pride and disobedience, God suddenly subtracted from them the participation of His goodness.… Yet He did not subtract it all, for in that case they would have remained still more malign than they (actually) are, and they would have had Hell infinite in pain, as they now have it in time.” … “When we ourselves shall depart from this life,—supposing we are in mortal sin,—then God would subtract from us His goodness and would leave us in our own selves, yet not altogether, since He wills that in every place there should be found His goodness accompanied by His justice. And if any creature could be found that did not participate in His goodness, that creature would be as malignant as God is good.”[223]

2. Natural conformity between God and all rational creatures.

From her sayings as to Creation and Pure Love, Creation’s cause, we come to those as to the Natural Conformity between God and Rational Creatures; His constant care for the human soul; and the consequent law of imitative love incumbent upon us. “I see God to have so great a conformity with the rational creature, that if the Devil himself could but rid himself of those garments of sin, in that instant God would unite Himself to him, and would make him into that which he, the Devil, attempted to achieve by his own power. So too with regard to man: lift off sin from his shoulders, and then allow the good God to act,—God who seems to have nothing else to do than to unite Himself to us.”—“It appears to me, indeed, that God has no other business than myself.”—“If man could but see the care which God takes of the soul, he would be struck with stupor within himself.”—[262]“I see that God stands all ready to give us all the aids necessary for our salvation, and that He attends to our actions solely for our good. And, on the contrary, I see man occupied with things that are opposed to his true self and of no value. And at the time of death God will say to him: ‘What was there that I could do for thee, O man, that I did not do?’ And man himself will then see this clearly.”—“When God created man, He did not put Himself in motion for any other reason than His pure love alone. And hence, in the same way as Love Itself, for the welfare of the loved soul, does not fail in the accomplishment of anything, whatever may be the advantage or disadvantage that may accrue from thence to the Lover, so also must the love of the loved soul return to the Lover, with those same forms and modes with which it came from Him. And then such love as this, which has no regard for aught but love itself, cannot be in fear of anything.”[224]

3. Relations between Love, God; love of our true self; and false self-love.

We can take next her teachings as to the relations between the love of God, love of our true self, and false self-love. “The love of God is our true self-love, the love characteristic of and directed to our true selves, since these selves of ours were created by and for Love Itself. The love, on the other hand, of every other thing deserves to be called self-hatred, since it deprives us of our true self-love, which is God. Hence ‘Him love, Who loveth thee,’ that is, Love, God; and ‘him leave who doth not love thee,’ that is, all other things, from God downwards.”[225]

“God so loves the soul, and is so ready to give it His graces, that, when He is impeded by some sin, then men say: ‘Thou hast offended God,’ that is, thou hast driven away God from thee, Who, with so much love, was desiring to do thee good. And men say this, although it is really man who then suffers the damage and who offends his own true self. But because God loves us more than we love our own selves, and gives more care to our true utility than we do ourselves, therefore does He get designated as the one who is offended. And, indeed, if God could be the recipient of suffering, it would be when, by sin, He is driven away by and from us.” “This corrupt expression: ‘Thou hast offended God.’” “Thou couldst discover, (O soul,) that God is continually willing whatsoever our true selves are wishing; He is ever aiming at nothing but at our own true spiritual advantage.”[226]

Hence happiness and joy, different from all mere pleasure, ever accompany this reconquest of our true self-love and this our re-donation of it to its true source.[263] “Man was created for the end of possessing happiness. And having deviated from this his end, he has formed for himself a false, selfish self, which in all things struggles against the soul’s true happiness.” “This divine love is our proper and true love.” “Man can truly know, by continual experience, that the love of God is our repose, our joy, and our life; and that (false) self-love is but constant weariness, sadness, and a (living) death of our true selves, both in this world and in the next.” “All sufferings, displeasures, and pains are caused by attachment to the false self. And although adversities many a time seem to us to be unreasonable, because of certain considerations which we believe to be true and indeed quite evident; yet the fact remains that it is our own imperfection which is preventing us from seeing the truth, and this it is which causes us to feel pains, suffering, and displeasure.” “O Love! if others feel an obligation to observe Thy commandments, I, on my part, freely will to have them all ten, because they are all delightful and full of love.… This is a point which is understandable only to him who himself experiences it; for in truth the divine precepts, although they are contrary to our sensuality, are nevertheless according to our own spirit which, of its very nature, is ever longing to be free from all bodily sensations, so as to be able to unite itself to God through love.”[227]

4. The true self instinctively hungers after God.

The sayings as to the close correspondence between the true self and God lead us on easily to those about the true self’s instinctive recognition of God, and its hunger for the possession, for the interiorization of God. “If I were to see the whole court of heaven all robed in one and the same manner, so that there would be no apparent difference between God and the Angels: even then the love which I have in my heart would recognize God, in the same manner as does a dog his master. Love knows how, without means, to discover its End and ultimate Repose.” “If a consecrated Host were to be given me together with other non-consecrated ones I would, I think, distinguish It by the taste, as wine from water.”—“When she saw the Sacrament upon the Altar in the hand of the priest, she would exclaim within herself (as it were, addressing the priest): ‘O swiftly, swiftly speed It to the heart, since It is the heart’s own food.’”[228]

5. Superiority of interior graces over exterior manifestations. No good within herself apart from divine grace.

Catherine’s hunger for the interiorization of all the external[264] helps of religion, even, indeed specially, of the Holy Eucharist Itself, leads us on to her statements as to the superiority of interior graces and dispositions over all exterior manifestations and sensible consolations, and as to the nature of acts produced by the false self or apart from the grace of God. “If we would esteem the operations of God” as they truly deserve, “we should attend more to things interior than to exterior ones.… The true light makes me see and understand that we must not look to what proceedeth from God to aid us in some special necessity and for His glory, but that we must look solely to the pure love with which He performs His work with regard to us. When the soul perceives how direct and pure are the operations of love, and that this love is not intent upon any benefit that we could confer upon It, then indeed the soul also desires, in its turn, to love with a pure love, and from the motive of the divine love alone.”[229]

“This not-eating of mine is an operation of God, independent of my will, hence I can in nowise glory in it; nor should we marvel at it, for to Him such an operation is as nothing.”—And to her Confessor Don Marabotto she says reprovingly, when he too wanted to smell the strange, strengthening odour which she smelt on his hand: “Such things as God alone can give” (i.e. states and conditions in the production of which the soul does not co-operate) “He does not give to him who seeks them; indeed, He gives them only on occasion of great need, and in order that we may draw great spiritual profit from them.”[230]

“If I do anything that is evil, I do it myself alone, nor can I attribute the blame to the Devil or to any other creature but only to my own self-will, sensuality, and other such malign movements. And if all the Angels were to declare that there was any good in me, I would refuse to believe them, because I clearly recognize how that all good is in God alone, and that in me, without divine grace, there is nothing but deficiency.”—“I would not that, to my separate self, even one single meritorious act should ever be attributed, even though I could at the same time be certified of no more falling from henceforward and of being saved; because such an attribution would be to me as though a Hell.”[265] “Rather would I remain in danger of eternal damnation than be saved by, and see, such an act of the separate self.” “The one sole thing in myself in which I glory is that I see in myself nothing in which I can glory.”

“Yet it is necessary that we should labour and exercise ourselves, since divine grace does not give life nor render pleasing unto God except that which the soul has worked; and without work on our part grace refuses to save.”—“We must never wish anything other than what happens from moment to moment, all the while, however, exercising ourselves in goodness. And to refuse to exercise oneself in goodness, and to insist upon simply awaiting what God might send, would be simply to tempt God.”[231]

6. God is Pure Love, Grace, Peace, and the Soul’s True Self.

The passages concerning the close relations between man’s pure love and instinct for God, and Pure Love, God Himself, easily lead us on to those in which Pure Love, Peace, Grace, the True Self, indeed the Essence of all things are positively identified with God. “Hearing herself called” to any office of her state or of charity, “she would,” even though apparently absorbed in ecstatic prayer, “arise at once, and go without any contention of mind. And she acted thus, because she fled all self-seeking as though it were the devil. And she felt at such times as though she could best express her feelings by means of the glorious Apostle’s words: ‘Who then shall separate me from the love of God?’ and the remainder of the great passage. And she would say: ‘I seem to see how that immovable mind of St. Paul extended much further than he was able to express in words; since Pure Love is God Himself: who then shall be able to separate Him from Himself?’” Elsewhere and on other occasions we find her declaring: “Love is God Himself”; “Pure Love is no other than God”; “the Divine love is the very God, infused by His own immense Goodness into our hearts.”[232]

She also declares that: “Grace is God”; that “Peace is God,”—“wouldest thou that I show thee what thing God is? Peace,—that peace which no man finds, who departs from Him.” And further still: “The proper centre of every one is God Himself”; “my Me is God, nor do I recognize any other Me, except my God Himself;” “my Being is God, not by simple participation but by a true transformation of my Being.”[266] “God is my Being, my Me, my Strength, my Beatitude, my Good, my Delight.” Indeed “the glorious God is the whole essence of things both visible and invisible.”[233]

All these startling statements are but so many expressions of one of the most characteristic moods and attitudes of her mind and heart. For in her vehemence of love and thirst for unification she would exclaim: “I will have nothing to do with a love that would be for God or in God; this is a love which pure love cannot bear: since pure love is (simply) God Himself”; “I cannot abide to see that word for, and that word in, since they denote to my mind a something that can stand between God and myself.”[234]

All this doctrine would be summed up by her in certain favourite expressions. “She was wont often to pronounce these words: ‘Sweetness of God, Fulness of God, Goodness of God, Purity of God’”; and at a later time “she had continually on her lips the term ‘(clear) Fulness’” (Self-adequation, nettezza).[235]

II. Sin, Purification, Illumination.

1. The soul’s continuous imperfection. Self-love and Pure Love, their contradictory characters. Every man capable of Pure Love.

Catherine’s extreme sensitiveness is no doubt a chief cause of the peculiar form in which she experiences her sinfulness and faults and their actually slow purification, as expressed[267] in those of her sayings which refer to the growth of love and to the continuous imperfections of the soul. “From the time when I began to love Him, that love has never failed me”; “indeed it has continually grown unto its consummation in the depths of my heart.” This growth takes place only step by step; and is in reality never complete, and never without certain imperfections. “The creature is incapable of knowing anything but what God gives it from day to day. If it could know (beforehand) the successive degrees that God intends to give it, it would never be quieted.” “When from time to time I would advert to the matter, it seemed to me that my love was complete; but later, as time went on and as my sight grew clearer, I became aware that I had had many imperfections.… I did not recognize them at first, because God-Love was determined to achieve the whole only little by little, for the sake of preserving my physical life, and so as to keep my behaviour tolerable for those with whom I lived. For otherwise, with such other insight, so many excessive acts would ensue, as to make one insupportable to oneself and to others.” “Every day I feel that the motes are being removed, which this Pure Love casts out (cava fuori). Man cannot see these imperfections; indeed, since, if he saw these motes, he could not bear the sight, God ever lets him see the work he has achieved, as though no imperfections remained in it. But all the time God does not cease from continuing to remove them.” “From time to time, I feel that many instincts are being consumed within me, which before had appeared to be good and perfect; but when once they have been consumed, I understand that they were bad and imperfect.… These things are clearly visible in the mirror of truth, that is of Pure Love, where everything is seen crooked which before appeared straight.”[236]

And yet the slowness of this purification is, in the last resort, caused, if not by the incomplete purity of her love, at least by the deep-rootedness and evasive character of the wrong self-love that has to be extirpated. “This our self-will is so subtle and so deeply rooted within our own selves, and defends itself with so many reasons, that, when we cannot manage to carry it out in one way, we carry it out in another. We do our own wills under many covers (pretexts),—of charity, of necessity, of justice, of perfection.” But pure love[268] sees through all these covers: “I saw this love to have so open and so pure an eye, its sight to be so subtle and its seeing so far-reaching, that I stood astounded.” “True love wills to stand naked, without any kind of cover, in heaven and on earth, since it has not anything shameful to conceal.” And “this naked love ever sees the truth; whilst self-love can neither see it nor believe in it.” “Pure love loves God without any for (any further motive).”[237]

And man, every man, is capable of this pure love and of the truth which such love sees: “I see every one to be capable of my tender Love.” “Truth being, by its very nature, communicable to all, cannot be the exclusive property of any one.”[238]

2. Exactingness of Pure Love.

The next group of sayings deals with the purity of Love, and the severity with which this purity progressively eliminates all selfish motives and attachments, whilst itself becoming increasingly its own exceeding great beatitude. “Pure Love loves God without why or wherefore (perchè)” “Since Love took over the care of everything, I have not taken care of anything, nor have I been able to work with my intellect, memory and will, any more than if I had never had them. Indeed every day I feel myself more occupied in Him, and with greater fire.” “I had given the keys of the house to Love, with ample permission to do all that was necessary, and determined to have no consideration for soul or body, but to see that, of all that the law of pure love required, there should not be wanting the slightest particle (minimo chè). And I stood so occupied in contemplating this work of Love, that if He had cast me, body and soul, into hell, hell itself would have appeared to me all love and consolation.”[239]

Yet the corresponding, increasing constraint of the false self is most real.[269] “I find myself every day more restricted, as if a man were (first) confined within the walls of a city, then in a house with an ample garden, then in a house without a garden, then in a hall, then in a room, then in an ante-room, then in the cellar of the house with but little light, then in a prison without any light at all; and then his hands were tied and his feet were in the stocks, and then his eyes were bandaged, and then he would not be given anything to eat, and then no one would be able to speak to him; and then, to crown all, every hope were taken from him of issuing thence as long as life lasted. Nor would any other comfort remain to such an one, than the knowledge that it was God who was doing all this, through love with great mercy; an insight which would give him great contentment. And yet this contentment does not diminish the pain or the oppression.”[240]

3. Blinding effect of all self-seeking. The gradual transformation of the soul.

There is next a group of sayings as to the immense, blinding and staining effect of even slight self-seekings, and as to how God gradually transforms the soul. “God and Sin, however slight, cannot live peaceably side by side (stare insieme). Since some little thing that you may have in your eye does not let you see the sun, we can make a comparison between God and the sun, and then between intellectual vision and that of the bodily eye.” “After considering things as they truly are, I find myself constrained to live without self.” “Since the time when God has given the light to the soul, it can no more desire to operate by means of that part of itself which is ever staining all things and rendering turbid the clear water of God’s grace. The soul then offers and remits itself entirely to Him, so that it can no more operate except to the degree and in the manner willed by tender Love Himself; and henceforth it does not produce works except such as are pure, full and sincere; and these are the works that please God-Love.”[241]

“I will not name myself either for good or for evil, lest this my (selfish) part should esteem itself to be something.” “Being determined to join myself unto God, I am in every manner bound to be the enemy of His enemies; and since I find nothing that is more His enemy than is self in me, I am constrained to hate this part of me more than any other thing; indeed, because of the contrariety that subsists between it and the spirit, I am determined to separate it from all the goods of this world and of the next, and to esteem it no more than if it were not.”[242]


“When she saw others bewailing their evil inclinations, and forcing themselves greatly to resist them, and yet the more they struggled to produce a remedy for their defects, the more did they commit them, she would say to them: ‘You have subjects for lamentation (tu hai li guai) and bewail them, and I too would be having and bewailing them; you do evil and bewail it, and I should be doing and be bewailing it as you do, if God Almighty were not holding me. You cannot defend yourself, nor can I defend myself. Hence it is necessary that we renounce the care of ourselves unto Him, Who can defend this our true self; and He will then do that which we cannot do.’”[243]

“As to the annihilating of man, which has to be made in God, she spoke thus: ‘Take a bread, and eat it. When you have eaten it, its substance goes to nourish the body, and the rest is eliminated, because nature cannot use it at all, and indeed, if nature were to retain it, the body would die. Now, if that bread were to say to you: “Why dost thou remove me from my being? if I could, I would defend myself to conserve myself, an action natural to every creature”: you would answer: “Bread, thy being was ordained for a support for my body, a body which is of more worth than thou; and hence thou oughtest to be more contented with thine end than with thy being. Live for thine end, and thou wilt not care about thy being, but thou wilt exclaim (to the body): ‘Swiftly, swiftly draw me forth from my being, and put me within the operation of that end of mine, for which I was created.’” … The soul, by the operation of God, eliminates from the body all the superfluities and evil habits acquired by sin, and retains within itself the purified body, which body thenceforth performs its operations by means of these purified senses.… And, when the soul has consumed all the evil inclinations of the body, God consumes all the imperfections of the soul.’”[244]

In each particular instance, the process was wont to be as follows: “When her selfish part saw itself tracked down by Love, Catherine would turn to Him and say: ‘Even though it pain sense, content Thy will: despoil me of this spoil and clothe me with Love full, pure and sincere.’”[245]

4. Suddenness and gratuitousness of God’s light; the obstacles to its operation.

We get next a set of apparently contrary sayings, concerning the suddenness of God’s illumination; how the degree of this light cannot be determined by man; and what are, nevertheless, the conditions under which it will not act. In some cases,[271] “the soul is made to know in an instant, by means of a new light above itself, all that God desires it to know, and this with so much certainty that it would be impossible to make the soul believe otherwise. Nor is more shown it than is necessary for leading it to greater perfection.” “This light is not sought by man, but God gives it unto man when He chooses; neither does the man himself know how he knows the thing that he is made to know. And if perchance man were determined to seek to know a little further than he has been made to know, he would achieve nothing, but would remain like unto a stone, without any capacity.”[246]

And she would pray: “Be Thou my understanding; (thus) shall I know that which it may please Thee that I should know. Nor will I henceforth weary myself with seeking; but I will abide in peace with Thine understanding, which shall wholly occupy my mind.” “If a man would see properly in spiritual matters, let him pluck out the eyes of his own presumption.” “He who gazes too much upon the sun’s orb, makes himself blind; even thus, I think, does pride blind many, who want to know too much.” “When God finds a soul that does not move, He operates within it in His own manner, and puts His hand to greater things. He takes from this soul the key of His treasures which He had given to it, so that it might be able to enjoy them; and gives to this same soul the care of His presence, which entirely absorbs it.”[247]

5. God’s way of winning souls and raising them towards pure love. The fruits of full trust.

The next group can be made up of passages descriptive of the dealings adopted by God with a view to first winning souls as He finds them, and then raising them above mercenary hope or slavish fear; and of the childlike fearlessness inspired by perfect trust in God. As to the winning them, she says: “The selfishness of man is so contrary to God and rebellious against Him, that God Himself cannot induce the soul to do His will, except by certain stratagems (lusinghe): promising it things greater than those left, and giving it, even in this life, a certain consoling relish (gusto). And this He does, because He perceives the soul to love things visible so much, that it would never leave one, unless it saw four.”[248]

And, as to God’s raising of the soul, she propounds the deep doctrine, which only apparently contradicts the divine method just enunciated, as to the necessary dimness of the soul’s light with regard to the intrinsic consequences of its[272] own acts, a dimness necessary, because alone truly purificatory, for the time that runs between its conversion, when, since it is still weak, it requires to see, and its condition of relative purity, when, since it is now strong, it can safely be again allowed to see.“ If a man were to see that which, in return for his good deeds, he will have in the life to come, he would cease to occupy himself with anything but heavenly things. But God, desiring that faith should have its merit, and that man should not do good from the motive of selfishness, gives him that knowledge little by little, though always sufficiently for the degree of faith of which the man is then capable. And God ends by leading him to so great a light as to things that are above, that faith seems to have no further place.—On the other hand, if man knew that which hereafter he will have to suffer if he die in the miserable state of sin, I feel sure that, for fear of it, he would let himself be killed rather than commit one single sin. But God, unwilling as He is that man should avoid doing evil from the motive of fear, does not allow him to see so terrifying a spectacle, although He shows it in part to such souls as are so clothed and occupied by His pure love that fear can no more enter in.”[249]

And as to the full trust of pure love, we have the following: “God let her hear interiorly: ‘I do not want thee henceforward to turn thine eyes except towards Love; and here I would have thee stay and not to move, whatever happens to thee or to others, within or without’; ‘he who trusts in Me, should not doubt about himself.’”[250]

And this Love gives of itself so fully to those that give themselves fully to It, that when asked by such souls to impetrate some grace for them she would say: “I see this tender Love to be so courteously attentive to these my spiritual children, that I cannot ask of It anything for them, but can only present them before His face.” In other cases, as in those of beginners when sick and dying, she would be “drawn to pray for” a soul, and would “impetrate” some special “grace for it.” “Lord, give me this soul,” she would at times pray aloud, “I beg Thee to give it me, for indeed Thou canst do so.” And “when she was drawn to pray for something, she would be told in her mind: ‘Command, for love is free to do so.’”[251]


III. The Three Categories and the Two Ways.

The next set of sayings so eminently constitutes the aggregation, if not the system, of categories under and with which Catherine habitually sees her types and pictures, and thinks and feels her experiences of divine things, that it will require careful discrimination and grouping.

1. The Three Categories: “In” Concentration; “Out” Liberation; “Over,” Elevation.

There is, first, the great category of in, within, down into; that is, recollection, concentration. “The love which I have within my heart.” “Since I began to love It, never again has that Love diminished; indeed It has ever grown to Its own fulness, within my innermost heart.” Hence she would say to those who dwelt in admiration of her psycho-physical peculiarities: “If you but had experience (sapeste) of another thing which I feel within me!” And again,“If we would esteem (aright) the operations of God, we must attend more to interior than to exterior things.” And, with regard to the Holy Eucharist, she would whisper, when seeing at Mass the Priest about to communicate: “O swiftly, swiftly speed It down to the heart, since it is the heart’s own food ”; and she would declare, with regard to her own Communion: “In the same instant in which I had It in my mouth, I felt It in my heart.”[252]

There is, next, the category of out, outside, outwards; that is, liberation, ecstasy. “The soul which came out from God pure and full has a natural instinct to return to God as full and pure (as it came).” “The soul finds itself bound to a body entirely contrary to its own nature, and hence expects with desire its separation from the body.” “God grants the grace, to some persons, of making their bodies into a Purgatory (already) in this world.” “When God has led the soul on to its last stage (passo), the soul is so full of desire to depart from the body to unite itself with God, that its body appears to it a Purgatory, keeping it far apart from its (true) object.” “The prison, in which I seem to be, is the world; the chain is the body”; “to noble (gentili) souls, death is the end of an obscure prison; to the remainder, it is a trouble,—to such, that is, as have fixed all their care upon what is but so much dung (fango).” And,[274] whilst strenuously mortifying the body, she would answer its resistances, as though so many audible complainings, and say: “If the body is dying, well, let it die; if the body cannot bear the load, well, leave the body in the lurch (O soul).”[253]

And all this imprisonment is felt as equivalent to being outside of the soul’s true home. “I seem to myself to be in this world like those who are out of their home, and who have left all their friends and relations, and who find themselves in a foreign land; and who, having accomplished the business on which they came, stand ready to depart and to return home,—home, where they ever are with heart and mind, having indeed so ardent a love of their country (patria), that one day spent in getting there would appear to them to last a year.”[254]

And this feeling of outsideness, seen here with regard to the relations of the soul to the body and to the world, we find again with regard to sanctity and the soul. In this latter case also the greater is felt to be (as it were) entrapped, and contained only very partially within the lesser; and as though this greater could and did exist, in its full reality, only outside of the lesser. “I can no more say ‘blessed’ to any saint, taken in himself, because I feel it to be an inappropriate (deforme) word”; “I see how all the sanctity which the saints have, is outside of them and all in God.” Indeed she sums this up in the saying: “I see that anything perfect is entirely outside of the creature; and that a thing is entirely imperfect, when the creature can at all contain it.” Hence “the Blessed possess (hanno) blessedness, and yet they do not possess it. For they possess it, only in so far as they are annihilated in their own selves and are clothed with God; and they do not possess it, in so far as they remain (si trovano) in their particular (proprio) being, so as to be able to say: ‘I am blessed.’”[255]

There is, in the third place, the category of over, above, upwards; that is elevation, sublimation. We will begin with cases where it is conjoined with the previous categories, and will move on into more and more pure aboveness. “I am so placed and submerged in His immense love, that I seem as though in the sea entirely under water, and could on no side touch, see, or feel anything but water.” And[275] “if the sea were the food of love, there would exist no man nor woman that would not go and drown himself (affogasse) in it; and he who was dwelling far from this sea, would engage in nothing else but in walking to get to it and to immerse himself within it.”[256] The soul here feels the water on every side of it, yet evidently chiefly above it, for it has had to plunge in, to get under the water.

“Listen to what Fra Jacopone says in one of his Lauds, which begins, ‘O Love of Poverty.’ He says: ‘That which appears to thee (to be), is not; so high above is that which is. (True) elevation (superbia) is in heaven; earthy lowness (umiltà) leads to the soul’s own destruction.’ He says then: ‘That which appears to thee,’ that is, all things visible, ‘are not,’ and have not true being in them: ‘so high’ and great ‘is He who is,’ that is, God, in whom is all true being. ‘Elevation is in heaven,’ that is, true loftiness and greatness is in heaven and not on earth; ‘earthy lowness leads to the soul’s own destruction,’ that is, affection placed in these created things, which are low and vile, since they have not in them true being, produces this result.”—“I feel,” she says in explanation of what and how she knows, “a first thing above the intellect; and above this thing I feel another one and a greater; and above this other one, another, still more great; and so up and up does one thing go above the other, each thing ever greater (than its predecessors), that I conclude it to be impossible to express even a spark (scintilla) as to It” (the highest and greatest of the whole series, God). Here it is interesting still to trace the influence of the same passage of Jacopone (again referred to in this place by the Vita), and to see why she introduced “greatness” alongside of “loftiness” into her previous paraphrase.[257]

Now this vivid impression of a strong upward movement, combined with the feeling of being in and under something, gives the following image, used by her during her last illness: “I can no longer manage to live on in this life, because I feel as though I were in it like cork under water.” And this “above,” unlike to “outside,” is accompanied by the image, not of clothing but of nakedness; the clothes are left below.[276] “This vehement love said to her, on one occasion: ‘What art thou thinking of doing? I want thee all for myself. I want to strip thee naked, naked. The higher up thou shalt go, however great a perfection thou mayest have, the higher will I ever stand above thee, to ruin all thy perfections’”—this, of course, inasmuch as she is still imperfect and falls short of the higher and higher perfections to which her soul is being led.[258]

And as to man’s faculties, she says: “As the intellect reaches higher (supera) than speech, so does love reach higher than intellect.” And again, as a universal law: “When pure love speaks, it ever speaks above nature; and all the things which it does and thinks and feels are always above nature.”[259]

2. The Two Ways: the Negative Way, God’s Transcendence; the Positive Way, God’s Immanence.

Now these three categories of within and inward, outside and outward, above and upward position and movement, can lead, and do actually lead in Catherine’s case, to two separate lines of thought and feeling. And these lines are each too much a necessary logical conclusion from the constant working of these categories, and they are each again far too much, and even apart from these categories, expressive of two rival but complementary experiences, for either of them to be able to suppress or even modify the other. Each has its turn in the rich, free play of Catherine’s life. I will take the negative line first, and then the positive, so as to finish up with affirmation, which will thus, as in her actual experience and practice, be all the deeper and more substantial, because it has passed, and is ever re-passing, through a process of limitation and purification.

First, then, if grace and God are only within, and only without, and only above, she will and does experience contradiction and paradox in all attempts at explaining reality; she will thus find things to be obscure instead of clear; and she will end by affirming the unutterableness, the unthinkableness of God, indeed of all reality. “I see without eyes, I understand without understanding, I feel without feeling, and I taste without taste.” “When the creature is purified, it sees the True; and such a sight is not a sight.” “The sight of how it is God” who sends the soul its purifying trials “gives the soul a great contentment; and yet this contentment does not diminish the pain.” Still,[277] “pure love cannot suffer; nor can it understand what is meant by pain or torment.” “The sun, which at first seemed so clear to me, now seems obscure; what used to seem sweet to me, now seems bitter: because all beauties and all sweetnesses that have an admixture of the creature are corrupt and spoilt.” “As to Love, only this can we understand about It, that It is incomprehensible to the mind.” “So long as a person can still talk of things divine, and can relish, understand, remember and desire them, he has not yet come to port.” For indeed “all that can be said about God is not God, but only certain smallest fragments which fall from (His) table.”[260]

And yet those experiences of God’s presence as, apparently, in a special manner within us, and without us, and above us, also lead, by means of another connection of ideas, to another, to a positive result. For those experiences can lead us to dwell, not upon the difference of the “places,” but upon the apparent fact that He is in a “place” of some sort, in space somewhere, the exact point of which is still to find; and, by thus bringing home to the mind this underlying paradox of the whole position, they can help to make the soul shrink away from this false clarity, and to fall back upon the deep, dim, true view of God as existing, for our apprehension, in certain states of soul alone, states which have all along been symbolized for us by these different “places” and “positions.” And thus what before was a paradox and mystery qua space, because at the same time within and without, and because not found by the soul “within” unless through getting “without” itself, becomes now a paradox and mystery qua state, because the soul at one and the same time attains to its own happiness and loses it, indeed attains happiness only through deliberately sacrificing it. And we thus come to the great central secret of all life and love, revealed to us in its fulness in the divine paradox of our Lord’s life and teaching.

God, then, first seems to be in a place, indeed to be a place. “I see all good to be in one only place, that is God.” “The spirit can find no place except God, for its repose.”[261]

If God be in a place, we cannot well conceive of Him as other than outside of and above the soul, which itself, even God being in a place, will be in a place also. “God has created the soul pure and full, with a certain God-ward instinct, which brings happiness in its train (istinto beatifico).” And “the nearer the soul approaches” (is joined, si accosta) “to God, the more does the instinct attain to its perfection.” Here the instinct within pushes the soul[278] “onwards, outwards, upwards.” And the nearer the soul gets to God in front, outside and above of it, the happier it becomes: because, the more it satisfies this its instinct, the less it suffers from the distance from God, and the more does it enjoy His proximity.[262]

This approach is next conceived of as increasingly conveying a knowledge to the soul of God’s desire for union with it; but such an approach can only be effected by means of much fight against and through the intervening ranks of the common enemies of the two friends; and, as we have already seen, chief amongst these enemies is the soul’s false self. “The nearer man approaches to (si accosta) God, the more he knows that God desires to unite Himself with us.” “Being determined to approach God, I am constrained to be the enemy of His enemies.”[263]

And then, that “place” in which God was pictured as being, is found to be a state, a disposition of the soul. Now as long as the dominant tendency was to think God with clearness, and hence to picture Him as in space, that same tendency would, naturally enough, represent this place He was in as outside and above the soul. For if He is in space, He is pictured as extended, and hence as stretching further than, and outside of, the soul, which itself also is conceived as spacially extended; and if He is in a particular part of space, that part can only, for a geocentric apprehension of the world, be thought of as the upper part of space. But in proportion as the picture of physical extension and position gives way to its prompting cause, and the latter is expressed, as far as possible, unpictorially and less clearly, but more simply as what it is, viz. a spiritual intention and disposition, she is still driven indeed, in order to retain some clearness of speech, to continue to speak as of a place and of a spacial movement, but she has now no longer three categories but only one, viz. within and inwards. For a physical quantity can be and move in different places and directions in space; but a spiritual quality can only be experienced within the substance of the spirit. “God created the soul pure and full, with a certain beatific instinct of Himself” (i.e. of His actual presence). And hence, “in proportion as it (again) approaches to the conditions of its original creation, this beatific instinct ever increasingly discovers itself and grows stronger and stronger.”[264]


And God being thus not without, nor indeed in space at all, she can love Him everywhere: indeed the what she is now constitutes the where she is; in a camp she can love God as dearly as in a convent, and heaven itself is already within her soul, so that only a change in the soul’s dispositions could constitute hell for that soul, even in hell itself. “O Love,” she exclaims, after the scene with the Friar, who had attempted to prove to her that his state of life rendered him more free and apt to love God, “who then shall impede me from loving Thee? Even if I were in the midst of a camp of soldiers, I could not be impeded from loving Thee.” She had, during the interview, explained her meaning: “If I believed that your religious habit would give me but one additional glimpse” (spark, scintilla) “of love, I would without doubt take it from you by force, were I not allowed to have it otherwise. That you may be meriting more than myself, I readily concede, I am not seeking after that; let those things be yours. But that I cannot love Him as much as you can do, you will never succeed in making me even understand.” “I stood so occupied in seeing the work of Love (within my soul), that if it had thrown me with soul and body into hell, hell itself would have appeared to me to be nothing but love and consolation.” And, on another occasion, she says to her disciples: “If, of that which this heart of mine is feeling, one drop were to fall into hell, hell itself would become all life eternal”; and she accepts with jubilation this interpretation of her words, on the part of one of them (no doubt Vernazza): “Hell exists in every place where there is rebellion against Love, God; but Life Eternal, in every place where there is union with that same Love, God.”[265]

And she now cannot but pray to possess all this love,—love being now pictured as a food, as a light, or as water, bringing life to the soul. “O tender Love, if I thought that but one glimpse of Thee were to be wanting to me, truly and indeed I could not live.” “Love, I want Thee, the whole of Thee.” “Never can love grow quiet, until it has arrived at its ultimate perfection.” And, in gaining all God, she gains all other things besides: “O my God, all mine, everything is mine; because all that belongs to God seems all to belong to me.”[266]

But if she loves all God, she can, on the other hand, love[280] only Him: how, then, is she to manage to love her neighbour? “Thou commandest me to love my neighbour,” she complains to her Love, “and yet I cannot love anything but Thee, nor can I admit anything else and mix it up with Thee. How, then, shall I act?” And she received the interior answer: “He who loves me, loves all that I love.”[267]

But soon her love, as generous as it is strong, becomes uneasy as to its usual consequences,—the consolations, purely spiritual or predominantly psychical or even more or less physical, which come in its train. And even though she is made to understand that at least the first are necessarily bound up with love, in exact proportion to its generosity, she is determined, to the last, to love for love itself, and not for love’s consequences, battling thus to keep her spirituality free from the slightest, subtlest self-seeking. “This soul said to its Love: ‘Can it really be, O tender Love, that Thou art destined never to be loved without consolation or the hope of some advantage in heaven or on earth” accruing to Thy lover?’” “And she received the answer, that such an union could not exist without a great peace and contentment of the soul.” And yet she continues to affirm: “Conscience, in its purity, cannot bear anything but God alone; of all the rest, it cannot suffer the least trifle.”[268]

And she practices and illustrates this doctrine in detail. “One day, after Communion, God gave her so great a consolation that she remained in ecstasy. When she had returned to her usual state, she prayed: ‘O Love, I do not wish to follow Thee for the sake of these delights, but solely from the motive of true love.’” On another similar occasion she prays: “I do not want that which proceedeth from Thee; I want Thyself alone, O tender Love.” And again, “on one occasion, after Communion, there came to her so much odour and so much sweetness that she seemed to herself to be in Paradise. But instantly she turned towards her Lord and said: ‘O Love, art Thou perhaps intending to draw me to Thee by means of these sensible consolations (sapori)? I want them not; I want nothing except Thee alone.’”[269]


IV. The Other Worlds.

We have now gone through Catherine’s contemplations and conceptions as regards the soul’s relations with its true Life and Love, here and now, on this side the veil. We have, in conclusion, to try and reproduce and illustrate her teaching as to these relations on the other side of death.

1. No absolute break in the spirit’s life at the body’s death.

Now here especially is it necessary ever to bear in mind her own presupposition, which runs throughout and sustains all her doctrine. For she is sure, beyond ever even raising a question concerning the point, that her soul and God, her two great realities and experiences, remain substantially the same behind the veil as before it, and hence that the most fundamental and universal of the soul’s experiences here can safely be trusted to obtain there also. Hence, too, only such points in the Beyond are dwelt on as she can thus experimentally forecast; but these few points are, on the other hand, developed with an extraordinary vividness and fearless, rich variety of illustration. And it is abundantly clear that this assumption of the essential unity and continuity of the soul’s life here and hereafter, is itself already a doctrine, and a most important one. We will then take it as such, and begin with it as the first of her teachings as to the Beyond.

“This holy soul,” says the highly authoritative prologue to the Trattato, in close conformity with her constant assumptions and declarations, “finding herself, whilst still in the flesh, placed in the Purgatory of God’s burning love,—a love which consumed (burnt, abbrucciava) and purified her from whatever she had to purify, in order that, on passing out of this life, she might enter at once into the immediate presence (cospetto) of her tender Love, God: understood, by means of this furnace of love, how the souls of the faithful abide in the place of Purgatory, to purge themselves of every stain of sin that, in this life, had been left unpurged. And as she, placed in the loving Purgatory of the divine fire, abode united to the divine Love, and content with all that It wrought within her, so she understood it to be with the souls in Purgatory.”[270]

2. Hell.

The details of her doctrine as to the Beyond we can group[282] under three heads: the unique, momentary experience and solitary, instantaneous act of the soul, at its passing hence and beginning its purgation there; the particular dispositions, joys and sufferings of the soul during the process of purification, as well as the cause and manner of the cessation of that process; and (generally treated by her as a simple contrast to this her direct and favourite purgatorial contemplation) the particular dispositions, sufferings, and alleviations of lost souls. Since her teachings on the last-named subject are more of an incidental character, I shall take them first, and make them serve, as they do with her, as a foil to her doctrine of the Intermediate State: whilst her conception of Heaven, already indicated throughout her descriptions of Pure Love, is too much of a universal implication, and too little a special department of her teaching, to be capable of presentation here.

As to the cause of Hell, she says: “It is the will’s opposition to the Will of God which causes guilt; and as long as this evil will continues, so long does the guilt continue. For those, then, who have departed this life with an evil will there is no remission of the guilt, neither can there be, because there can be no more change of will.” “In passing out of this life, the soul is established for good or evil, according to its deliberate purpose at the time; as it is written, ‘where I shall find thee,’ that is, at the hour of death, with a will either determined to sin, or sorry for sin and penitent, ‘there will I judge thee.’” Or, in a more characteristic form: “There is no doubt that our spirit was created to love and enjoy: and it is this that it goes seeking in all things. But it never finds satiety in things of time; and yet it goes on hoping, on and on, to be at last able to find it. And this experience it is that helps me to understand what kind of a thing is Hell. For I see that man, by love, makes himself one single thing with God, and finds there every good; and, on the other hand, that when he is bereft of love, he remains full of as many woes as are the blessings he would have been capable of, had he not been so mad.”[271]

And yet, and this is her own beautiful contribution to the traditional doctrine on this terrible and mysterious subject, neither are the sufferings of the lost infinite in amount, nor is their will entirely malign. And both these alleviations[283] evidently exist from the first: I can find no trace anywhere in her teaching of a gradual mitigation of either the punishment or the guilt. Indeed, although she always teaches the mitigation of the suffering, it is only occasionally that she teaches the persistence of some moral good. Thus her ordinary teaching is: “Those who are found, at the moment of death, with a will determined to sin, have with them an infinite degree of guilt, and the punishment is without end”; “the sweet goodness of God sheds the rays of His mercy even into Hell: since He might most justly have given to the souls there a far greater punishment than He has.” “At death God exercises His justice, yet not without mercy; since even in Hell the soul does not suffer as much as it deserves.” But occasionally she goes further afield, and insists on the presence there, not only of some mercy in the punishment, but also of some good in the will. “When we shall have departed from this life in a state of sin, God will withdraw from us His goodness, and will leave us to ourselves, and yet not altogether: since He wills that in every place His goodness shall be found and not His justice alone. And if a creature could be found that did not, to some degree, participate in the divine goodness, that creature would be, one might say, as malignant as God is good.”[272] There can be no doubt, as we shall see further on, that this latter is her full doctrine and is alone entirely consistent with her general principles.

Certain details of her Hell doctrine which appear in immediate contrast to, or in harmony with, some special points of her Purgatorial teaching, had better appear in connection with the latter.

3. Purgatory; the initial experience and act.

Let us now take, in all but complete contrast to this doctrine as to Hell, what she has to say about Purgatory. And here we have first to deal with the initial experience and act, both of them unique and momentary, of the soul destined for Purgatory. As to that experience, only one description has been preserved for us. “Once, and once only, do the souls (that are still liable to, and capable of, purgation) perceive the cause of (their) Purgatory that they bear within themselves,—namely in passing out of this life: then, but never again after that: otherwise self would come in (vi saria una proprietà).”[273]


And this unique and momentary experience is straightway followed by as unique and momentary an act, free and full, on the part of the experiencing soul. Catherine has described this act in every kind of mood, and from the various points of view, already drawn out by us, of her doctrine, so that we have here again a most impressive and vivid summing-up and pictorial representation of all her central teaching.

“The soul thus seeing” (its own imperfection) and, “that it cannot, because of the impediment” (of this imperfection) “attain (accostarsi) to its end, which is God; and that the impediment cannot be removed (levato) from it, except by means of Purgatory, swiftly and of its own accord (volontieri) casts itself into it.”[274] Here we have the continuation of the outward movement: the soul is here absolutely impeded in that, now immensely swift, movement, and is brought to a dead stop, as though by something hard on the soul’s own surface, which acts as a barrier between itself and God; it is offered the chance of escaping from this intolerable suffering into the lesser one of dissolving this hard obstacle in the ocean of the purifying fire: and straightway plunges into the latter.

“If the soul could find another Purgatory above the actual one, it would, so as more rapidly to remove from itself so important (tanto) an impediment, instantly cast itself into it, because of the impetuosity of that love which exists between God and the soul and tends to conform the soul to God.”[275] Here we have an extension of the same picturing, interesting because the addition of an upwards to the outwards introduces a conflict between the image (which evidently, for the soul’s plunge, requires Purgatory to lie beneath the soul), and the doctrine (which, taking Purgatory as the means between earth and heaven, cannot, if any spacial picturing be retained at all, but place Heaven at the top of the picture, and Purgatory higher up than the soul which is coming thither from earth). The deep plunge has become a high jump.

“I see the divine essence to be of such purity, that the soul which should have within it the least mote (minimo chè) of imperfection, would rather cast itself into a thousand hells, than find itself with that imperfection in the presence of God.”[276] Here the sense of touch, of hardness, of a barrier which is checking motion, has given way to the sense of sight, of stain, of a painful contrast to an all-pure Presence; and the whole[285] picture is now devoid of motion. We thus have a transition to the immanental picturing, with its inward movement or look.

“The soul which, when separated from the body, does not find itself in that cleanness (nettezza) in which it was created, seeing in itself the stain, and that this stain cannot be purged out except by means of Purgatory, swiftly and of its own accord casts itself in; and if it did not find this ordination apt to purge that stain, in that very moment there would be spontaneously generated (si generebbe) within itself a Hell worse than Purgatory.”[277] Here we have again reached her immanental conception, where the soul’s concern is with conditions within itself, and where its joys and sorrows are within. Its trouble is, in this case, the sense of contrast, between its own original, still potential, indeed still actual though now only far down, hidden and buried, true self, and its active, obvious, superficial, false self. In so far as there is any movement before the plunge, it is an inward, introspective one; the soul as a whole is, for that previous moment, not conceived as in motion, but a movement of her self-observing part or power takes place within her from the surface to the centre; and only then, after her rapid journey from this her surface-being to those her fundamental ineradicable requirements, and after the consequent intolerably painful contrast and conflict within herself, does she cast herself, with swift wholeheartedness, with all she is and has, into the purifying place and state.

And, in full harmony with this immanental conception, the greater suffering which would arise did she abide with this sight of herself and yet without any moral change is described as springing up spontaneously within herself. “The soul, seeing Purgatory to have been ordained for the very purpose of purging away its stains, casts itself in, and seems to find a great compassion (on the part of God) in being allowed (able) to do so.” This appears to be only a variety of the immanental view just given.[278]

4. Purgatory: the subsequent process.

We have finally to give her doctrine as to the particular dispositions, joys, and sufferings of the soul during the process of its purgation, and as to the cause and manner of the cessation of that process.


As to the dispositions, they are generally the same as those which impelled the soul to put itself in this place or condition. Only whereas then, during that initial moment, they took the form of a single act, an initiation of a new condition, now they assume the shape of a continuous state. Then the will freely tied itself; now it gladly though painfully abides by its decision and its consequences. Then the will found the relief and distraction of full, epoch-making action; now it has but to will and work out the consequences involved in that generous, all-inclusive self-determination. The range and nature of this, its continuous action will thus be largely the very reserve of those of that momentary act. “The souls that are in Purgatory are incapable of choosing otherwise than to be in that place, nor can they any more turn their regard (si voltare) towards themselves, and say: ‘I have committed such and such sins, for which I deserve to tarry here’; nor can they say, ‘Would that I had not done them, that now I might go to Paradise’; nor yet say, ‘That soul is going out before me’; nor, ‘I shall go out before him.’ They are so completely satisfied that He should be doing all that pleases Him, and in the way it pleases Him, that they are incapable of thinking of themselves.” Indeed they are unable even to see themselves, at least directly, for “these souls do not see anything, even themselves in themselves or by means of themselves, but they (only) see themselves in God.” Indeed we have already seen that to do, or to be able to do, otherwise, would now “let self come in (sarebbe una proprietà).”[279]

And the joys and sufferings, and the original, earthly cause of the latter, are described as follows. “The souls in Purgatory have their (active) will conformed in all things to the will of God; and hence they remain there, content as far as regards their will.” “As far as their will is concerned, these souls cannot find the pain to be pain, so completely are they satisfied with the ordinance of God, so entirely is their (active) will one with it in pure charity. On the other hand, they suffer a torment so extreme, that no tongue could describe it, no intellect could form the least idea of it, if God had not made it known by special grace.” And indeed she says: “I shall cease to marvel at finding that Purgatory is” in its way as[287] “horrible as Hell. For the one is made for punishing, the other for purging: hence both are made for sin, sin which itself is so horrible and which requires that its punishment and purgation should be conformable to its own horribleness.” For in Purgatory too there still exist certain remains of imperfect, sinful habits in the will. “The souls in Purgatory think much more of the opposition which they discover in themselves to the will of God,” than they do of their pain. And yet, being here with their actual will fully at one with God’s purifying action (an action directed against these remains of passive opposition), “I do not believe it would be possible to find any joy comparable to that of a soul in Purgatory, except the joy of the Blessed in Paradise.”[280]

Now the sufferings of the soul are represented either as found by it, under the form of an obstacle to itself, whilst in motion to attain to God, a motion which in some passages is outward, in others inward; or as coming to it, whilst spacially at rest. Only in the latter case is there a further attempt at pictorially elucidating the nature of the obstacle and the cessation of the suffering. It is fairly clear that it is the latter set of passages which most fully suits her general teaching and even imagery. For, as to the imagery: after that one movement in which the soul determines its own place, we want it to abide there, without any further motion. And, as to doctrine: more and more as the soul’s history is unfolded, should God’s action within it appear as dominating and informing the soul’s action towards God, and should change of disposition supplant change of place.

First, then, let us take the clearer but less final conception, and see the soul in movement, in a struggle for outward motion. “Because the souls that are in Purgatory have an impediment between God and themselves, and because the instinct which draws the soul on to its ultimate end is unable as yet to attain to its fulfilment (perfezione), an extreme fire springs up from thence (within them), a fire similar to that of Hell.” We have here an application and continuation of the transcendental imagery, so that the impediment is outside or on the surface of the soul, and God is outside and above this again: but the whole picture here, at least as regards the fire, is obscure and tentative.[281]

Or the soul is still conceived as in movement, but the motion is downwards from its own surface to its own centre, a centre where resides its Peace, God Himself.[288] “When a soul approaches more and more to that state of original purity and innocence in which it had been created, the instinct of God, bringing happiness in its train (istinto beatifico), reveals itself and increases on and on, with such an impetuousness of fire that any obstacle seems intolerable.”[282] Here we have the immanental picturing, the soul moving down, under the influence of its instinct for God, to ever fuller masses of this instinct present within the soul’s own centre. But the extreme abstractness and confusion of the language, which mixes up motion, different depths of the soul, and various dispositions of spirit, and which represents the soul as capable of approaching a state which has ceased to exist, cast doubts on the authenticity of this passage. In both these sets where the soul is in motion, we hear only of an impediment in general and without further description; and, in both cases, the fire springs up because of this impediment, whereas, as we shall see, in the self-consistent form of her teaching the Fire, God, is always present: the impediment simply renders this Fire painful, and that is all.

And next we can take the soul as spacially stationary, and as in process of qualitative change. Here we get clear and detailed pictures, both of what is given to the soul and of what is taken away from it. The images of the positive gain constitute the beautiful sixth chapter of the Trattato. But its present elaborate text requires to be broken up into three or four variants of one and the same simile, which are probably all authentic. I give them separately.

“If in the whole world there existed but one loaf of bread to satisfy the hunger of every creature: in such a case, if the creature had not that one bread, it could not satisfy its hunger, and hence it would remain in intolerable pain.”[283] Note how, so far, the nature of the possession of the bread is not specified, it is simply “had”; and how the pain seems to remain stationary.

“Man having by nature an instinct to eat: if he does not eat, his hunger increases continually, since his instinct to eat never fails him.”[284] Here all is clearer: man now takes the place of the creature in general; the possession is specified as an eating; the pain is a hunger; and this hunger is an ever-increasing one.


“If in all the world there were but one loaf of bread, and if only through seeing it could the creature be satisfied: the nearer that creature were to approach it (without seeing it and yet knowing that only the said bread could satisfy it), the more ardently would its natural desire for the bread be aroused within it (si accenderebbe),—that bread in which all its contentment is centred (consiste).”[285] Here the image for the nature of the appropriation has been shifted from the least noble of the senses, taste and touch, to the noblest, sight: there is still a longing, but it is a longing to see, to exercise and satiate fully the intellectual faculties. And yet the satiety is evidently conceived not as extending to these faculties alone, but as including the whole soul and spirit, since bread would otherwise cease to be the symbol here, and would have been replaced by light. Note too the subtle complication introduced by the presentation, in addition to the idea of an increase of hunger owing to lapse of time, of the suggestion that the increase is caused by a change in the spacial relations between the hungering creature and its food, and by an ever-increasing approach of that creature to this food.

“And if the soul were certain of never seeing the bread, at that moment it would have within it a perfect Hell, and become like the damned, who are cut off from all hope of ever seeing God, the true Bread. The souls in Purgatory, on the other hand, hope to see that Bread, and to satiate themselves to the full therewith; whence they suffer hunger as great as will be the degree to which they will (eventually) satiate themselves with the true Bread, God, our Love.”[286] Here it is noticeable how the specific troubles of Hell and Purgatory are directly described, whereas the corresponding joys of Heaven are only incidentally indicated; and how the full sight is not preceded by a partial sight, but simply by a longing for this full sight, so that, if we were to press the application of this image, the soul in Purgatory would not see God at all. And yet, as we have seen above, souls there see, though not their particular sins, yet their general sinful habits; for what are the “impediment,” the “imperfection,” the “stain,” which they go on feeling and seeing, but these habits? And they see themselves, though not in themselves, yet in God. But, if so, do they not see God?

The answer will doubtless be that, just as they do not see their sins any more in their specific particularity, but only[290] feel in themselves a dull, dead remainder of opposition and imperfection, so also they do not, after the initial moment of action and till quite the end of their suffering, see God clearly,—as clearly as they do when the process is at an end. During one instant at death they had seen (as in a picture) their sins and God, each in their own utterly contrasted concrete particularity; and this had been the specific cause of their piercing pain and swift plunge. And then came the period of comparative dimness and dulness, a sort of general subconsciousness, when their habits of sin, and God, were felt rather than seen, the former as it were in front of the latter, but both more vaguely, and yet (and this was the unspeakable alleviation) now in a state of change and transformation. For the former, the blots and blurrs, and the sense of contrariety are fading gradually out of the outlook and consciousness; and the latter, the light and life, the joy and harmony of the soul, and God, are looming clearer, nearer, and larger, on and on. And even this initial feeling, this general perception, this semi-sight and growing sight of God, is blissful beyond expression; for “every little glimpse that can be gained of God exceeds every pain and every joy that man can conceive without it.”[287]

The imagery illustrative of what is taken from the soul, and how it is taken, is two-fold, and follows in the one case a more transcendental, in the other case a more immanental, conception, although in each case God is represented as in motion, and the soul as abiding in the same place and simply changing its qualitative condition under the influence of that increasing approach of God and penetration by Him.

The illustration for the more transcendental view is taken from the sun’s light and fire’s heat and a covering. It is, as a matter of fact, made up of three sayings: one more vague and subtle, and two more clear and vivid, sayings. “The joy of a soul in Purgatory goes on increasing day by day, owing to the inflowing of God into the soul, an inflowing which increases in proportion as it consumes the impediment to its own inflowing.”—God’s action upon the imperfect soul is as the sun’s action upon[291] “a covered object. The object cannot respond to the rays of the sun which beat upon it (reverberazione del sole), not because the sun ceases to shine,—for it shines without intermission,—but because the covering intervenes (opposizione). Let the covering be consumed away, and again the object will be exposed to the sun and will answer to the rays in proportion as the work of destruction advances.”—Now “Sin is the covering of the soul; and in Purgatory this covering is gradually consumed by the fire; and the more it is consumed, the more does the soul correspond and discover itself to the divine ray. And thus the one (the ray) increases, and the other (the sin) decreases, till the time (necessary for the completion of the process) is over.”[288]

It is clear that we have here three parallel passages, each with its own characteristic image, all illustrative of an identical doctrine: namely, the persistent sameness of God’s action, viewed in itself, and of the soul’s reaction, in its essential, central laws, needs, and aspirations; and the accidental, superficial, intrinsically abnormal, inhibitory modification effected by sin in that action of God and in the corresponding reaction of the soul.—The first, dimmer and deeper saying speaks of an inflowing of God, with her usual combination of fire-and-water images. We seem here again to have the ocean of the divine fire, Itself pressing in upon the soul within It, yet here with pain and oppression, in so far as the soul resists or is unassimilated to It; and with peace and sustaining power, in so far as the soul opens out to, and is or becomes similar to, It. We hear only of an “impediment” in general, perhaps because the influx which beats against it is imaged as taking place from every side at once.—The second saying, the most vivid of the three, speaks of sun-light, and of how, whilst this sun-light itself remains one and the same, its effect differs upon one and the same object, according as that object is covered or uncovered. Here we get a “covering,” since the shining is naturally imaged as coming from one side, from above, only. But here also it is the same sun which, at one time, does not profit, and, at another time, gives a renewed life to one and the same object; and it is clear, that either Catherine here abstracts altogether from the question as to what consumes the covering, or that she assumes that this consumption is effected by the sun itself.—The third saying is the least simple, and is indeed somewhat suspicious in its actual form. Yet here again we have certainly only one agent, in this case fire, which again, as in the case of the influx and of the sun-light, remains identical in itself, but[292] varies in its effects, according as it does or does not meet with an obstacle. The ray here is a ray primarily of heat and not of light, but which is felt by the soul at first as painful, destructive flame, and at last as peaceful, life-giving warmth.

Now, amongst these three parallel sayings, it is that concerning the inflowing, which leads us gently on to the more immanental imagery—that of fire and dross. And this image is again given us in a number of closely parallel variants which now constitute one formally consecutive paragraph,—the third of Chapter X of the Trattato. “Gold, when once it has been (fully) purified, can be no further consumed by the action of fire, however great it be; since fire does not, strictly speaking, consume gold, but only the dross which the gold may chance to contain. So also with regard to the soul. God holds it so long in the furnace, until every imperfection is consumed away. And when it is (thus) purified, it becomes impassible; so that if, thus purified, it were to be kept in the fire, it would feel no pain; rather would such a fire be to it a fire of Divine Love, burning on without opposition, like the fire of life eternal.”[289] Here the imperfection lies no more, as a covering, on the surface, nor does the purifying light or fire simply destroy that covering and then affect the bare surface; but the imperfection is mixed up with the soul, throughout the soul’s entire depth, and the purification reaches correspondingly throughout the soul’s entire substance. Yet, as with the covering and the covered object, so here with the dross and the impure gold, sin is conceived of as a substance alien to that of the soul. And, so far, God appears distinct from the fire: He applies it, as does the goldsmith his fire to the gold. But already there is an indication of some mysterious relation between the fire of Purgatory and that of Heaven. For if the very point of the description seems, at first sight, to be the miraculous character of the reward attached, more or less arbitrarily, to the soul’s perfect purification, a character indicated by the fact that now not even fire can further hurt the soul, yet it remains certain that, the more perfect the soul, the more must it perceive and experience all things according to their real and intrinsic nature.

Another conclusion to the same simile is:[293] “Even so does the divine fire act upon the soul: it consumes in the soul every imperfection. And, when the soul is thus purified, it abides all in God, without any foreign substance (alcuna cosa) within itself.”[290] Here God and the fire are clearly one and the same. And the soul does not leave the fire, nor is any question raised as to what would happen were it to be put back into it; but the soul remains where it was, in the Fire, and the Fire remains what it was, God. Only the foreign substance has been burnt out of the soul, and hence the same Fire that pained it then, delights it now. Here too, however, God and the soul are two different substances; and indeed this Fire-and-Gold simile, strictly speaking, excludes any identification of them.

“The soul, when purified, abides entirely in God; its being is God.”[291] Here we have the teaching as to the identity of her true self with God, which we have already found further back. But the soul’s purification and union with God which there we found illustrated by the simile, so appropriate to this teaching, of the absorption of food into the living body, we find indicated here by the much less apt comparison of the transformation of gold by fire. For in this latter case, the gold remains a substance distinct from the fire, whereas the doctrine requires a simile such as a great pure fire expelling all impurity from a small, impure fire, and then itself continuing to live on, with this small fire absorbed into itself. But we shall see later on, why, besides the intrinsic difficulty of finding an at all appropriate simile for so metaphysical a doctrine, the imagery always becomes so ambiguous at this point. We shall show that a confluence of antagonistic doctrines, and some consequent hesitation in the very teaching itself, contribute to keep the images in this uncertain state. However, the possibly glossorial importation of this most authentic teaching of hers into this place and simile only helps to confirm the identity of the Fire with God, and the non-moving of the soul, throughout this group of texts. For the gold abides in the fire, as the soul abides in God; and the identification which is thus established of the painful with the joyous fire, and of both with God, is what will have suggested the introduction in this place of the further identification of the soul with God. And it is the continued abiding of the identical soul, a soul which has not moved spacially but has changed qualitatively, in the identical fire, God, which[294] has helped to suggest the insertion in this place of the doctrine that the soul, in its true essence, is identical with God. God, in this final identification, would be the gold, the pure gold of the soul; and this pure gold itself would generate a fire for the consumption of all impurity, in proportion as such impurity gained ground within it. And, in proportion as this consumption takes place, does the fire sink, and leave nothing but the pure gold, the fire’s cause, essence, and end. In any case, we have here one more most authentic and emphatic enforcement of the teaching that the place of Purgatory is really a state; that its painfulness is intrinsic; and that it is caused by the partial discord between spirit and Spirit, and is ended by the final complete concord between both.




I now propose to attempt, in these last two biographical chapters, to give, first, an account of the fate of Catherine’s remains and possessions; and, next, of the vicissitudes in the lives of her companions and immediate disciples. I shall thus range from the day of her death on Sunday, September 15, 1510, up to 1551, the year of the publication of the Vita e Dottrina; indeed, in the instance of one particular disciple, up to 1587. And I shall do so, partly as a further contribution to the knowledge of her own character and even of her doctrine, this finest expression of what she spiritually was, and of her influence upon her immediate little world; and partly in preparation for the study of the influence of this entourage back upon the apprehension and presentation of her figure, upon the growth of her “Legend,” and upon the contemporary and gradual, simultaneous and successive, upbuilding of that complex structure, her “Life.” This latter inquiry is probably too technical to interest the majority of readers, and will be found relegated to the Appendix at the end of this volume.

I shall group all the facts, alluded to above, under five heads: her burial, and the events immediately surrounding it; the different removals of the remains, and the chief stages of her Official Cultus; the fate of her two priest friends and advisers, and of her domestics; the remaining history of her closest friend Ettore Vernazza; and finally the long career, rich in autobiographical annotations, of Ettore’s daughter, Catherine’s God-child, Tommasina (Battista) Vernazza. We shall thus first finish up what is predominantly the story of things, and of the more external, even although the most[296] splendid and authoritative, appreciation and authentication of her holiness; and shall only then go back to what is (almost exclusively) an interior history of souls, and one which will materially contribute to our apprehension of Catherine’s special character and influence and to a vivid perception of the advantages, strength, limits, and difficulties of that particular kind of religion and of its attestation and transmission. Ettore’s and Battista’s stories, however, are so full that I must give three entire sections to Ettore, and one whole chapter to Battista.

I. The Burial and the Events immediately surrounding it. September 15 to December 10, 1510.

1. The Burial, September 16.

We have seen how, in the evening of Thursday, September 12, the already dying Catherine had, in a Codicil, declared that she desired to be buried wheresoever the priests Jacobo Carenzio and Cattaneo Marabotto should decide. She died in the early morning of Sunday, the 15th; and already on the next day, with the rapidity which, in such matters, continues characteristic of southern countries, the burial took place.

First, Dons Jacobo Carenzio and Cattaneo Marabotto declared, in a written document, that “knowing the late Donna Caterinetta to have ordained that her body should be buried in such a place as they themselves might ordain: they, in consequence, willed and ordained that her said body be buried in the Church of the Hospital.”[292] And next, the funeral took place with a certain amount of pomp: for authentic copies are still extant of the expenses incurred,—among other things for wax candles, including three white-wax flambeaux, amounting in all to over one hundred pounds weight of wax.[293] The evidently highly emaciated, and hence naturally flexible, body had been enclosed in a “fine coffin of wood,” and was now, at this first deposition, put in “a resting-place (deposito) against one of the walls” of the Church. There can be no doubt that this first resting-place was not the monument of her husband Giuliano, although the latter was[297] still visible and readily accessible for a considerable time after,—certainly up to 1522, and probably down to 1537.[294]

2. Catherine’s possessions at the time of her death.

And next, on Tuesday the 17th, an Inventory was drawn up of the things possessed by Catherine at the moment of her death, for the use of the Hospital “Protectors,” the Trustees and Executors of her Will. An authentic copy of it is still extant, and furnishes first-hand evidence for the presence, up to the very last, and amongst the tangible objects and small possessions in daily use, of memorials and expressions of the three great stages of her life, and of the (in part successive and past, in part simultaneous and still present) layers, or as it were concentric rings, of her character. We thus get a vivid presentation of that variety in unity and unity in variety, which is of the very essence of the fully living soul; and we also see how incapable of being otherwise than caricatured, if expressed in but a few hyperbolic words,[298] was even her spirit of poverty and of mortification, in this her last stage, which, in some sense and degree, still retained and summed up, and in other ways added a special touch of a large freedom to, all the various previous stages of her life.

The list gives the things according to the rooms in which they stood, beginning with her own death-room, and, here, with her own bed. In this “the room” (camera) there are “a down coverlet” and “two large mattresses”; “three” (other) “coverlets, one of vermilion silk” and “two of” some simpler “white” material; “two blankets, one vermilion, the other white”; “five-and-a-half pairs of sheets”; and “a pillow”: all this for Catherine’s bed. And these clothes, together with those of the bed of the “famiglia” (the maid Argentina), constitute, together with the two bedsteads, absolutely all the chattels present in this “bedroom” (camera).

“In the” adjoining “room with the blue wall-hangings and the” intervening “curtain,” there were: “three stuff gowns, one black and the other Franciscan-colour,” i.e. grey; “two silk gowns”; “two jackets, one” of which was again “of grey stuff, without a lining”; seven other garments, “one being of black silk”; a very small amount of body-linen; “three table-cloths and twenty-one towels”; “two silver cups and saucers” and “six silver spoons”; “eight pewter candlesticks”; “one casserole”; “four wooden basins”; “a kettle”; and a few other poor odds-and-ends, for kitchen and sick-room use; and a three-legged table and one or two other articles of simple furniture.

And finally “a closet” (recamera) is mentioned, with a press in it.

It is noticeable that here, again, no printed book or manuscript of any kind is mentioned: but it is clear that she herself had, some time after her Will of March 18, 1509, given away her dearly prized “Maestà”-triptych to Christoforo di Chiavaro, for this picture nowhere occurs in this list; and something of the same kind may have occurred with one or two books.

But if we group these things somewhat differently, we at once get a vivid conception of the precise, and hence complex, sense in which she can be said to have died very poor; and we get clear indications of the three stages of her life. For the silver service is a survival from her pre-conversion, worldly-wealthy days; the pewter candlesticks, and the rough, sparse[299] furniture, belong to her directly penitential first-conversion period and mood; and the soft, warm, gay-coloured coverlets and apparel of rich material are no doubt predominantly characteristic of her last years when, largely under Don Marabotto’s wise advice, she allowed herself a greater freedom in matters of external mortification, and readily accepted bodily attentions and comforts, reserving now the fulness of her attention to matters of interior disposition and purification. She thus attained, by means of and after all those previous forms of mortification, to a perfected, evangelical liberty, in which the death to self was, if somewhat different, yet even more penetrative than before.

In the evening of this day, the Protectors of the Hospital formally renew their acceptance of the office of Trustees and Executors, imposed on them by Catherine’s Will of March 18 of the previous year.[295]

3. Distribution of Catherine’s chattels.

And thirdly, there are the various sellings, re-sellings, and distributions of her humble little collection of things, which take place with the slow multiplicity of steps, dear to all corporations. Workmen get paid, on November 22, for carrying her property on to the market-place, for the sale. On the same day Argentina receives “such things left to her in Catherine’s Will as Catherine had not herself already given to her maid.” And, on December 10, the remainder of that property, which had evidently been bought in by the Hospital on that November day, is finally re-valued, bought, and divided up by and between the Protectors, who take most of the large furniture; Marabotto, who buys ten things (a pair of fire-irons, a wardrobe, and a gilt article amongst them); her brother Lorenzo, who acquires four things (amongst them “a woman’s work-box?—capsetina a domina”); and the Rector, Don Carenzio, who becomes possessed of the down coverlet and of a piece of vermilion cloth.[296]

Here the absence of all buying by or for Vernazza or a representative of his is noticeable. He was evidently still far away, busy in putting his and his dead Saint-friend’s large ideas into practice; and his three daughters, the eldest of[300] whom was but thirteen, were being brought up in two Convents.

The fate of Catherine’s little house is too closely bound up with that of one of her friends for its history to be easily severable from his. It stands over to the third section.

II. The Different Removals of the Remains, and the Chief Stages of her Official Cultus.

1. Opening of the “Deposito.” Successive “translations.”

Catherine’s remains were left “for about eighteen months” in their first resting-place, (deposito) by one of the walls of the “Hospital Church.” But then “it was found that the spot was damp, owing to a conduit of water running under the wall. And the resting-place was broken up, and the coffin was opened: and the holy body was found entire from head to foot, without any kind of lesion.” “And so great a concourse of people took place, to see the body, that the remains were left exposed indeed for eight days; but, owing to a part of them having been abstracted,” apparently at the opening of the coffin, “they were exhibited shut off (from the crowd) in a side-chapel, where they could be seen but not touched.” “And after this, the remains were deposited high up, in a sepulchre of marble, in the Church of the Hospital.”[297]

The interest of this removal consists in three sets of facts, the last set being of capital importance among the determining causes of her cultus and eventual canonization. For one thing, we still have the accounts of the expenses incurred in connection with it, the Hospital repaying, to two ladies (one of them Donna Franchetta, the wife of Giuliano’s cousin Agostino Adorno) and to Don Marabotto, the sums expended by them upon this translation and sepulchre: Marabotto’s expenses being in part for “causing the stone for the sepulchre to be brought.” These accounts are put down in the Hospital Cartulary under July 10, nearly twenty-two months after the first deposition; but the expenses may well have been incurred by those three friends, three or four months before. We thus find two ladies (a relative and a friend), and Don[301] Marabotto, to the fore; but no mention of Carenzio, although the latter was at the time, as we shall see, still Rector of the Hospital and living in Catherine’s little house there.

And secondly, it is on this occasion that mention is made of the picture which I have more or less identified with the portrait reproduced in this volume. There are two highly ambiguous entries concerning it. “To account of the Sepulture of the late Donna Caterinetta Adorna, for divers expenses incurred by Don Cattaneo Marabotto: to wit, for a picture, and for causing the stone for the sepulture to be brought, £7 10s.”; “the Maintenance Committee (fabrica) of the Hospital, for a picture erected in the Church of the Hospital, above the Altar: to the credit of Don Cattaneo Marabotto, £9 7s.[298] Now I take it that only one interpretation is at all a probable one, viz. that both these entries, in the comfortably slipshod way in which most of these accounts were kept, refer somehow to one and the same picture; and that this picture was a portrait of Catherine. For it is certain that the second account refers in some way to Catherine and to this first transference of her remains; it is highly unlikely that two pictures of herself would be produced and paid for, on one and the same occasion; and it is most improbable that Marabotto would care, on occasion of all this popular enthusiasm for his deceased friend and penitent, to spend money on a picture representative of some figure other than her own.

The reader will note that the portrait which I thus connect with this picture has not, as yet, got any nimbus, an absence hardly possible in any much later picture.[299] And I take it that the picture was placed above an altar, possibly even the Altar (the High Altar) of the Church, not only because that was the most honorific place, but also a little because the sepulchre had been placed too high up for the relatively small picture to be sufficiently visible if attached to the monument itself.

And thirdly, we have here, in this week-long public veneration of the remains, and in this erection of her picture over one of the Church Altars, the first unmistakable beginnings of a popular cultus. For the evidences and expressions of devotion to her, which I have recorded at the time of her[302] death, were all restricted to the circle of her personal friends, and her first deposition remained, apparently, free from any popular concourse or commotion. The series of cures attributed to her intercession does not begin till this opening of the deposito. Certainly the first, and possibly the first four, of these cases, as given by Padre Maineri (1737), occurred in connection with this first opening.[300] And it is certain that, if the (greater or lesser) incorruption of the body was possibly nothing even physically so very remarkable, given all the circumstances;[301] and if this fact left the question of her sanctity intrinsically entirely where it found the matter: yet the incorruption it was that gave the first, and, as it turned out, an abiding impulse to the popular devotion. Indeed, as we shall see later on, it is highly improbable that, but for this condition of the body, a cultus would ever have arisen sufficiently popular and permanent to lead on to her Beatification and Canonization. But as things now stood, the movement had been set going, and it continued on and on.

The remaining translations were: a second one, into “an honourable sepulchre lower down,” still before 1551, and already mentioned in the first edition of the Vita of that year; a third, in 1593, when the remains were placed in their present position, but in a marble monument, up in the choir, above the Church entrance; and a fourth and fifth, in 1642 and 1694, when the body was placed, for the first and second time, in shrines having glass sides, so that the relics could be seen: that of 1694 is the one in which the remains still repose. And in 1709, Cardinal Lorenzo Fiesco being Archbishop of Genoa, the body was reclothed, on June 13, by ladies, amongst whom was a Maria B. Fiesca.[302] We thus see how unbroken was, in this case, the authentication of the remains, and how fresh remained, most naturally, the interest taken in their cultus by Catherine’s most powerful family.

2. Motives operating for Catherine’s Canonization.


It is indeed clear that Catherine’s greatness,—what made her a large, rich mind and saintly spirit,—is one thing; and that Catherine’s popularity,—what occasioned the official recognition of that greatness,—is another thing. Her mind and teaching, her character and special grace and attrait, were of rare width and penetration; in part, they were strikingly original through just this their depth of psychological and spiritual self-consistency and closeness of touch with the soul’s actual life. And these points had profoundly impressed a very small group of friends. And again, her work among the poor and sick had been long, varied, and utterly devoted. And here she had been widely appreciated. Yet these, the two lives which, between them, constituted all her sanctity and significance, had, the former nothing, and the latter but little and only mediately, to do with the forces which led on eventually to her formal canonization.

The motives for putting Rome in motion for this her canonization were, no doubt, predominantly three. There was the popular devotion, which apparently was first aroused, and was then instantly turned into a downright cultus, by the discovery, in May or June 1512, of the incorruption of her remains; and which from thenceforward continued and grew, in connection with these relics and with the physical cures and ameliorations attributed to the touch of the dead body, or of its integuments, or even of the oil of the lamp which evidently soon (presumably on occasion of that first outburst of devotion) was kept lit before Catherine’s resting-place.[303] There was next the gratitude of the Hospital authorities to Catherine for her life-work amongst them; and their most natural and laudable wish to utilize her sanctity and its recognition for the benefit of the ever-continuous and pressing necessities of their vast institution and its Church. And finally, there was the feeling of clanship and the active interest taken in the matter by the (all but regal) family of the Fieschi, backed, as they were, by the Republic of Genoa and various other sovereign bodies and persons.

The combination of these three things proved sufficiently powerful to take the place of certain ordinary incentives which were wanting, and even to overcome certain unusual difficulties which were undoubtedly present, in the case. Certain incentives were lacking. For there was, in this[304] instance, no Religious Order to put forward and to work, with all the continuous, unresting, unhasting momentum of an institution, for a saintly subject of its own, a subject whose glorification would bring honour and profit to the body from which she sprang, and an accession of popularity to the special object and work of that Order. And certain obstacles were present. For few characters, interior ideals and explicit teachings, could be found more sui generis, more profoundly, even daringly original and all re-constitutive, and less immediately understandable and copyable, than are these of Catherine. But the enthusiasm and self-interest of the populace, of a charitable institution, and of a powerful family, replaced what was thus lacking and overcame what was thus operative; and the directly visible and universally understandable part of her life and example, was allowed to outweigh any objection that could be urged on the ground of the less obvious and more difficult, far more original and profound, sides of her special personality and piety.

And a matter which further helped on the canonization was that when Pope Urban VIII, in 1625, published his Bull forbidding thenceforth, under grave penalties, that any one, “even though he have died with the reputation of extraordinary Christian perfection, be called ‘Blessed’ or ‘Saint,’ until he has first been declared to be such, and to merit religious worship, by the Holy Roman See”; and ordaining that the same rule should be practised concerning persons already deceased, who were currently recognized as saints: he excepted, with regard to this second class, those who, “during an immemorial course of time” previous to the publication of this Bull, had been venerated as saints by the people, without opposition or complaint on the part of the Church authorities. For this “time immemorial” was considered by theologians to amount, as a minimum, to a hundred years. And since religious worship had begun to be paid to her certainly not later than 1512, and the title “Beata” had already then been publicly given to her, Catherine continued, even after Pope Urban’s Bull, to be invoked and venerated as “Blessed,” with the knowledge, though without any positive and express approbation, of the Roman Church.[304]


3. Canonization, 1737.

But the devotees of Catherine, naturally enough, were not content with less than a formal approbation, and, as usual, the obtaining of the latter was a very long and elaborate affair. At the beginning of 1630 a petition was sent in to Cardinal Cesarini in Rome; who, after much examination, gave his opinion on May 24, 1636. There the matter again rested for twenty-four years.—But in 1670 the very active and able Florentine, Cardinal Azzolini, (the same whose interesting correspondence with that undisciplined and wayward, but thoroughly sincere and much-maligned woman, Queen Christina of Sweden, has been recently published,) became the “Ponente,” the Advocate, for the cause.[305] The Cardinal wrote in 1672 to Archbishop Spinola of Genoa for his opinion; and the latter, after much further examination, declared that the cultus of Catherine, having existed for over a century before Pope Urban’s Bull, she ought, in accordance with the tenor of that Bull, to be maintained in possession of that same cultus. The Congregation of Rites approved of this sentence on March 30, 1675, and Clement X, the now eighty-five years old Altieri Pope, gave it his assent. Thus Catherine had a full official recognition as “Beata.”

Next came the examination of her doctrine and “writings,” from 1676 onwards, culminating in their approbation, for purposes of Canonization, by Pope Innocent XI (Odescalchi) in 1683. It is this investigation which, with some of the discussions concerning her virtues, adds considerably to our materials and means for judging of her teaching. I have already touched on these discussions; and they will occupy us again in the second volume.

And then, in 1682, Cardinal Azzolini, supported by King Louis XIV of France and the King of Spain, again presses Rome,—this time with a view to reaching Canonization. And on Cardinal Azzolini dying, Cardinal Imperiali became second “Ponente” of the cause. In 1690 the City of Genoa obtained leave from the Congregation of Rites for the recitation of the Office and for the Celebration of the Mass of the Common of Widows, in honour of Blessed Catherine; in 1733[306] an Office and a Mass proper to herself were approved; and in 1734 her eulogy was inserted in the Roman Martyrology, under date of March 22 (her conversion-day): “At Genoa, the Blessed Catherine, widow, distinguished by her contempt of the world and love of God.”

But meanwhile the long process as to the heroic degree of her virtues had issued in the Report of the Commission in 1716; and in the affirmative decree of the Congregation of Rites, confirmed by Clement XII (Corsini) in 1733.

And, before the conclusion of this investigation of her virtues, the examination of the miracles ascribed to her intercession had been begun in Genoa in 1730, by a deputation consisting of the Archbishop De-Franchi and two Bishops, sitting in the Archiepiscopal Palace; and six miracles were, in 1736, approved as valid, from amongst the numerous cases alleged to have occurred in 1730. And then three from amongst these six miracles were finally approved by Rome, on April 5, 1737, as efficient towards Canonization.

And at last, on April 30 of the same year, Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Pope Clement, “in order that the faithful of Christ may, in Blessed Catherine, have a perfect example of all the virtues, and especially of the love of God and of their neighbour; and that a new honour and ornament may shine forth for the Republic of Genoa; orders the present Decree for the Canonization of the said Blessed Catherine,—a Canonization which has still to be carried out,—to be expedited and published.”—And on May 18 following, on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, the same Pope performed, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the function of the Canonization of Blessed Catherine, together with that of three other Beati: the two Frenchmen, Vincent de Paul, Founder of the Congregation of the Mission (the Lazarists) (1576-1660), and Jean François Regis, a Jesuit Mission-Preacher in the Huguenot parts of France (1597-1640); and the Italian Giuliana Falconieri, Foundress of the Third Order of Servites (1270-1341).[306]

It was now, on this canonization-day, over two hundred and sixteen years since Catherine Fiesca Adorna, that keen and ardent spirit, had flown to God, her Love. We must return to those earlier times.


III. The Fate of Catherine’s Priest Friends.


In thus reverting to the period which immediately succeeded Catherine’s death, and to the predominantly obscure and humble persons who had directly known her well, we bid adieu, indeed, to things massive, fixed, and final: yet we exchange the description of what, after all, was but an authoritative declaration of accomplished facts, for the study of that alone directly soul-stirring thing, the picture and drama of living, energizing human souls; of how these souls were being influenced by a greater one than themselves; and again of how these, thus influenced, lesser minds and hearts transmitted, developed, and coloured the tradition of the life to which they owed so much.

Now the effect, or at least the record of the effect, of the conception of Catherine formed by her two Priest friends and by her domestics back upon her transmitted image and upon the growth of her Legend, is, apart from the indications in the Vita already given or still to be considered, upon the whole, but slight. Still, as we shall eventually find, the few facts as to the subsequent lives of these persons, which shall now be given, are of very distinct use in appraising their respective shares in the gradual constitution of the Vita e Dottrina.

1. Don Carenzio, 1510-1513.

I take Don Jacopo Carenzio first, since he was the Priest in actual attendance upon Catherine at the last, and because he now, no doubt immediately after the funeral or at latest on the day of the removal of her chattels to the market-place, became possessed, as we shall see, of Catherine’s little house. He was thus the one who alone could continue and augment a cultus as strictly local as even Argentina’s had been, during those weeks, perhaps months, of sole night-charge of her dying mistress in these very rooms.

The identification of the building is complete. For as far back as October 6, 1497, not long after Giuliano’s death,—he was still alive on July 14,—the Protectors of the Hospital referred to their “grant to Catherine, during her lifetime, of the enjoyment and use of a house with a greenhouse, forming part of the Hospital.” And in this greenhouse she, on the evening of Sunday, March 18, 1509, had, in the[308] presence of Vernazza and four other witnesses, dictated her Fourth Will to Battista Strata. It was, then, of a size sufficient to render it worth mentioning, and it was evidently closed in. Now there is a legal instrument, dated Saturday, August, 30, 1511, drawn up at a meeting held by the four “Protectors,” “in the chief (sitting-) room of the Residence of the Rector, in which the late Donna Caterinetta was wont to live.” And in this they declare that, “seeing that the Reverend Don Jacopo Carenzio, the Rector, is about to go to his home at Diano, for the purpose of carrying out a matter of the greatest importance to himself, and is shortly to return from thence, and that he wishes to persevere throughout his life in the said office of Rector; and since they desire that he should willingly hasten his return, and should be able to persevere with full confidence, and should not, as long as he lives, be moved from this room together with the whole building contiguous with it, to the room which, with its appurtenant building, is at present in the course of erection as the official residence of the Rector; they have altogether conceded to the above-named Reverend Jacopo, Rector, present and accepting, the said room together with the whole building belonging to this room, for him to hold and inhabit throughout his life, together with the greenhouse.”[307]

Here three points are of interest. Don Carenzio is, then, a native of the little Diano Castello on the Western Riviera hillside, some fifty English miles from Genoa and some twenty short of San Remo; and must have belonged to some humble family in that insignificant little place. His origin is thus in marked contrast to Marabotto’s, and still more to Vernazza’s. And next, it is clear that the house and greenhouse inhabited and used by Don Carenzio till his death are identical with those tenanted by Catherine, ever since at least the death of Giuliano. And thirdly, it is equally clear that this house was in no part identical with the two rooms still shown as the Saint’s. For these latter are high up from the ground; do not now form, and probably never formed, part of a disconnected house; and they no doubt stand on another site. The little house will have been demolished at latest in 1780, when the present great quadrangle was built.[308]

Now here, in these rooms full of the memory of Catherine,[309] Don Carenzio will, not unreasonably, have hoped to live during many years. For it is not likely that he was older than, or indeed as old as, Don Marabotto, since he was now occupying that same office of Rector which Marabotto had held some six years previously. And yet Marabotto did not die till eighteen years later, whereas Carenzio’s death came soon. For his funeral took place on January 7, 1513, for which day there is an entry in the Hospital Cartulary for the cost of twenty-three pounds-weight of wax candles,—less than one-fourth the amount used at Catherine’s obsequies; and for that of the Priest’s vestments in which the body was robed and buried.[309]

It seems unlikely that Carenzio was not buried in the Hospital Church, seeing that he died whilst, apparently, still ex-officio Rector of the Hospital. But, if he was interred there, his monument, like that of Giuliano, was cut off and buried away in and with the Church end in 1537, or was covered up in some restoration; for there is no trace of it either in the Church itself or in any book treating of the sepulchral monuments of Genoa.

It is remarkable also that, though he had been the one priest present at Catherine’s death, and had tenanted Catherine’s own rooms throughout the two years and two or three months since her death, and had, alongside of Marabotto, been appointed by Catherine herself as the person to determine the place of her sepulture: his name nowhere occurs in connection with the plan for the opening of her deposito some eighteen months after her death; nor with the execution of that plan; nor with any of the consequent initiations of a public cultus. It is impossible to doubt that we have here some little counter jealousy and return exclusion, a sort of answer by Marabotto to his, Marabotto’s, own enforced absence from the death-chamber and his twenty-four hours’ ignorance of his Penitent’s death, which we had to note in its proper place. Poor little human frailties which may have appeared less petty and more completely excusable at close quarters than they look at this distance of time! I take it that, if there was a deliberate exclusion of Carenzio, the ceremony of opening the resting-place will have been timed to tally with some absence of the Rector,—say, on another visit to his native Diano.


2. Don Marabotto, 1510-1528.

As to Don Cattaneo Marabotto, I have not been able to discover much. We have already seen how he bought ten of Catherine’s chattels on December 10, after her death. On July 7, 1511, he pays over to Catherine’s old servant, the maid Maria (Mariola Bastarda), her late mistress’s little legacy, in a form to be described presently.

But the most important facts concerning him—apart from his share in the Vita, which shall be considered at length hereafter—are the following three. There is, first, the fact (already dwelt upon) that he, and apparently he alone, initiated, or at least led and directed, the plan of opening the deposito, exposing the body, giving it a marble sarcophagus, and erecting a picture over an altar in the Church to Catherine. And next, that “still in 1523 Argentina del Sale was his servant,”—she had evidently then, on Catherine’s death in 1510, become his attendant.[310] And thirdly, that he did not die till 1528.[311]

There seems to be but little doubt that he was, at least slightly, Catherine’s junior. Yet already on his first intercourse with her, he, the Rector of the Hospital, must have been a fully mature man. I suppose him to have been born somewhere about 1450; in which case he will have been about seventy-eight at the time of his death.

In any case, he lived long enough to see and hear much of[311] a kind to console and strengthen his devotion to Catherine and his faith in the self-rejuvenating powers of the Church, and much of a nature to dismay and alarm the gentle, peaceable old man. For there were the opening of the coffin; the incorruption; the popular concourse and enthusiasm; the graces and the cures of May to July 1512. And there were Luther’s ninety-five Theses nailed to the University Church of Wittenberg, on the Eve of All-Saints, 1517; and Pope Leo X’s condemnation of forty of them in 1520, and amongst them three Theses which concerned the doctrine of Purgatory, one of which must have seemed strangely like one of Catherine’s own contentions. And there were the books of Henry VIII of England and of Erasmus against Luther, in 1522, 1524, and in Italy the foundation of the Capuchin Order in 1527; there were, too, the Peasants’ War and Luther’s marriage in Germany in 1525, and, in 1527, the sacking of Rome by the Imperial troops. And through all this world-wide, epoch-making turmoil and conflict we think of him, probably not simply from our lack of documents, as leading a quiet, obscure, somewhat narrow existence; yet one redeemed from real insignificance by his silent watchfulness and action, and still more by his writing, in honour of his large-souled Penitent, ever so sincerely felt by him as indefinitely greater than himself.

I do not know where he was buried. It was not, however, in the Hospital Church; for in that case there would have been some entry in the books of the expenses incurred in connection with his funeral.

IV. The Fate of Catherine’s Three Maid-Servants.

As to Catherine’s three maid-servants the facts that can still be traced are as follow.

1. Benedetta.

The widow and Franciscan Tertiary Benedetta Lombarda, although her name had continued to appear in the documents from Giuliano’s Will in 1496 down to Catherine’s last will of March 1509, disappears after this latter date entirely from sight. Since both Mariola and Argentina reappear in the Hospital books, (although Mariola had, like Benedetta, ceased to serve Catherine at the last), it looks as though Benedetta had died between the Will of March 1509 and[312] Catherine’s death in September 1510. Yet it is possible that Catherine herself handed over to Benedetta her little share in the former’s money and chattels; and that Benedetta is no more mentioned after her mistress’s death because, unlike Mariola and Argentina, she did not continue to live in and belong to the Hospital, whose accounts alone are our extant sources of information for the other two servants.

2. Mariola.

But as to Mariola and Argentina, and their lives after 1510, we do know something. Mariola (Maria) Bastarda had, on leaving Catherine’s service, (probably only some weeks, but possibly some months before her mistress’s death), become one of the servants, or under-nurses (filia), of the Hospital; and, on July 7 of the following year (1511) she was clothed a Novice in the Convent of Bridgettines in Genoa, with the money left to her in Catherine’s Will.[312]

The latter fact is interesting as showing how purposely vague and ambiguous, and how little capable of being pressed, are at least some of the statements of the Vita, if taken as they stand and prior to any distinction of documents and of their varying degrees of trustworthiness. For there we read, after the scene where the evil spirit within the maid declares Catherine’s true surname to be “Serafina”: “this possessed person (spiritata) was endowed with a lofty intelligence, and lived to the end in virginity.” Who would readily guess that we have here to do with little Mariola? The passage is, I think, in part modelled upon Acts xxi, 9: “And he” (Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven Deacons) “had four daughters virgins, who did prophesy.” Even so then did Catherine, the teacher, have “a spiritual daughter,” a virgin, who “prophesied,” divined and announced, the true character of her mistress.—“We believe,” continues the Vita, “that the Lord had given her this spirit to keep her humble. She finished her life in a holy manner.” Who would guess that this meant profession as a Nun? The point is, I take it, kept vague in part to make the insertion of the words which[313] follow possible. “Nor did the evil spirit ever depart from her, till well-nigh the very end, when she was about to die.” It is evident that this cannot be pressed: and that either the attacks continued to the end, but were rare and slight; or that they were serious and frequent, but ceased a considerable time before her death. For, though we do not know when she died, we have no right to assume, in evidently still so young a person, that death came soon.

3. Argentina.

And Argentina appears in several documents. So in an entry of the Hospital Cartulary for November 22, 1510, as to the value of the things then handed over to her in accordance with Catherine’s Will. So again in three legal documents drawn up for her and in her presence,—a Will of October 1514, a Codicil of some later (unspecified) date, and a second Will of January 15, 1522. In the Codicil she doubles the little sum she had left to the Hospital in 1514; and in the last document she declares her wish to be buried “in the Church of the Annunciata, in the monument (vault) of the late Giuliano Adorno, or in such other as may seem good to …”; and leaves moneys “for Masses to be said for her soul, by two of the Brethren of the Monastery of San Nicolò in Boschetto.”[313]

This group of papers is interesting. For we see from it how even an obscure little serving-woman was wont, in Italy, the classic country of Law and Lawyers, and during these claimful, pushing times, to have Wills and Codicils drawn up for her. We perceive, too, how proud and fond Argentina remained of her former avocation of servant to Giuliano, since only he and not his Saint-wife lay in that vault; and how, nevertheless, an uncertainty possesses her mind as to whether this can or will be carried out—no doubt owing to the fact that the vault had not received the remains of his wife, and had not indeed probably been opened again at all since his death, twenty-five years before. And we can note how Argentina, together with, and no doubt at least in part because, of her late mistress, has an affection for the Monastery and Pilgrimage Church of San Nicolò, on that wooded hill, so near to Catherine’s former villa.

And Argentina appears finally in that list of conclusions (already referred to in Marabotto’s case) as continuing to live[314] in the Hospital; and as still living in it in 1523; and, similarly, as continuing in the capacity of servant to Don Marabotto. I have already pointed out the difficulties inherent in this statement, but believe it to be correct. Yet it would be of considerable importance if we could reach lower down, and could fix the exact death-date of poor Marco del Sale’s ardent-minded, imaginative little widow. Since she was doubtless considerably, I think quite twenty years, younger than Marabotto, and since even the latter lived on, we know, till 1528, six years after this Will, there was nothing, in the matter of actual age, to prevent her living on up to 1550 or beyond. And circumstances connected with the growth of Catherine’s legend seem to point, as we shall find, to Argentina having died in any case after Marabotto, and probably not before 1547. Similarly, Catherine herself did not die till twenty-six years after her first Will (1484-1510).

V. The Two Vernazzas: their Debt to Catherine, and Catherine’s Debt to them.

We now move on from these four figures which, seen against the living background of those strenuous times, appear indeed small and contracted; and which, in relation to Catherine, appear rather as a mere memory and mechanical continuation of her limitations, and specially of the phenomenal accidents and relative monotony of her sick-room period, than as a rich and vigorous, because truly personal, expansion and re-application of her many-sided action, breadth and warmth, and human practicality, during the times of her fullest self-expression. Such a new facing of the new problems, with a strength both old and new, enkindled indeed at her light and warmth, and yet developed also from the vigorously fresh centres of other deep hearts and virile minds and wills, we must now attempt to picture, in the case of the two greatest of Catherine’s disciples, Ettore Vernazza and his eldest daughter Battista. And yet if, in the former four cases, while the results of this influence appeared few and insignificant, the actual fact and source of this influence were plain beyond all cavil: in these latter two instances we have, indeed, a rich crop of thoughts and acts, of wisdom and of heroism, but then it is mostly impossible to sort[315] out what is here the direct and unmistakable outcome of Catherine’s influence.

The great, open, spiritual and even temporal, battlefield, if not of Europe at least of Italy; the abuses and tyrannies, but also the necessity and the power for good, of governments; and the strenuous, tragic, and transformatory conflicts of single wills within their own soul’s world, and again with other wills, both single and combined: all this lies spread out here like a map before us, seen from the bracing heights of time. There is nothing here, at least in the Ettore’s case, that the most intolerantly robust, or even the most hysterically would-be strong, mind could suspect of sickliness. And yet, if undoubtedly much of all this fruitful virility in Catherine’s closest friend, and in Catherine’s God-daughter, proceeds from Catherine herself, it nevertheless springs up and grows within them, not as an avowed, nor probably, for the most part, even as conscious, imitation or reminiscence.

Thus here again we get an impressive instance of one profound sense in which the grain of wheat of any great and wholesome influence must die. For only if and when broken up, selected from, and assimilated to and within, another mind’s and heart’s life and system, can that older living organism, which yet was, in the first instance, so moving just because of its unique organization round a centre possible only to that one other soul, truly and permanently develop and enrich a living centre not its own. And so in this case too: Catherine’s influence is all the more real in Ettore and Battista, because the latter are in no sense simple copies of the former. She has lived on in them, at the cost of becoming in part ignored, in part absorbed, by them: and continues to influence them through certain elements of her life that have been assimilated, and through the reinterpreted image of that life’s historic reality, an image which is ever reinviting them to do and to be, mutatis mutandis, what she herself had done and been.

But, indeed, (even apart from all direct influence exercised by Catherine’s personality upon them, or by them upon Catherine’s legend), these two lives are interesting as further authentic illustrations of Catherine’s school and spirit, and, indeed, of the mystical element of religion in general.

I shall first take the father, devoting three sections to him.


VI. Ettore Vernazza’s Life, from 1509 to 1512.


We possess, if few, yet quite first-rate materials for the reconstruction of the remaining part of Vernazza’s life. For there are his own testamentary provisions as to the disposition of his property, (as elaborate and vividly characteristic as Mr. Cecil Rhodes’s), drawn up in 1512 and 1517, and occupying twelve closely-printed octavo pages; and there is a long, homely, and admirably realistic description of his life and character, written by Battista, not, it is true, till 1581, when she was eighty-four years of age, and nearly sixty years after her father’s death, but which is, there is no reason to doubt, perfectly truthful, generally accurate, and all the more moving, in that the living man and his large-hearted heroism were thus continuing to touch and inspire his daughter, at the very moment of her writing, with a finely restrained emotion, of deeds and personalities witnessed, by her own eyes and spirit, over half a century before. I shall take the several documents, not each as they stand but piecemeal, according to the dates of the events recorded or of the legal act performed.

1. Ettore’s married life; and thought of the monastic state.

“My Father and Mother,” writes Battista, “lived together” from 1496 to 1509 “in the greatest peace, since they wished each other every kind of good; so that I do not remember ever having heard one word of dissension pass between them.—And although my Mother was a beautiful and attractive young woman, and was loved by persons deserving of esteem, yet she would stay at home, alone, with her children. And my Father acted similarly, except when he was obliged to go out on some business. Otherwise I do not remember having ever noticed either of them going out to some late party (veglià), as is the custom in Genoa.”—And she tells how “he was so abstemious” in the matter of food, “that he was wont strictly to limit the amount of bread that he ate. But my Mother, noticing this, had the breads baked very substantial.”

“And when my Mother died” in the spring of 1509, “my Father thought of becoming a Lateran (Augustinian) Canon. But, on asking the advice of Padre Riccordo da Lucca,” (I take it, himself a Lateran Canon,)[317] “who was just then preaching in Genoa with very great fervour, the latter did not encourage him to carry out his intention, observing, as he did, my Father’s inclination for founding works of charity.” And her father proved docile. Indeed she says of him generally that “he greatly mortified his self-will, and for this reason had put himself under obedience to a priest, who had the reputation of being exceptionally devoted (molto buono), and obeyed him as though he had been the very voice of God.” “And my Father then gave up his own house, and went to live in rooms which had been got ready for him in the Hospital for Incurables, of which he was one of the Managers and indeed one of the first Builders. And here he always lived, when he was in Genoa; here he died; and this institution he made his heir.”[314]

Here it is interesting to note the similarities and differences between this union, so happy and thus blessed with three children, and Catherine’s marriage, so unhappy and childless; between his thought of a religious vocation after his marriage was over, and Catherine’s before hers was begun; and between his fifteen years of residence in the midst of the incurable poor at the Chronici, and Catherine’s similar, though earlier and longer, life surrounded by the sick poor at the Pammatone. There is some likeness, too, in the matter of corporal mortification; although, with Vernazza, it is less acute, but is apparently kept up throughout his life, whilst with Catherine the active bodily mortifications are very prominent whilst they last, but are kept up thus for but a few years. As to obedience, we have here, for Vernazza, a more authoritative account than are any of the general statements on the same point with regard to Catherine; but in Catherine’s case many concrete instances give us a definite idea as to the character and limits of this docility, whereas all such instances are, in Vernazza’s case, restricted to the above incident alone. Yet this one example of his obedience shows how largely conceived, how simply divinatory and stimulative of his own deepest (although as yet but half-born) ideals, how ancillary to his own grace-impelled self-determination, and hence how truly liberating, were this direction and docility. The Venerable Cardinal de Berulle’s determination of Descartes[318] to a philosophical career, and St. Philip Neri deciding Cardinal Baronius to write his entirely open-minded, indeed severe, Ecclesiastical Annals, would doubtless be true parallels to this particular relationship.

2. Ettore’s great Will of 1512.

We have already seen that Ettore was away from Genoa from about September 10, 1510, onwards, and that he was far away at the time of Catherine’s death. He may well have been away most of the year 1511, nor is there indeed any indication that he was in Genoa at the opening of Catherine’s deposito in May to July 1512. But he was certainly there in October 1512, for on the 16th of that month he drew up a munificent and far-sighted deed of gift, of one hundred shares of the Bank of St. George, to various charitable and public purposes.

Vernazza had already previously provided for his three daughters; and now orders that the interest of these other shares (a capital amounting, at the time, to the value of some £10,400) should, for the first nine years, be used by the “Protectors” of the Incurables for the benefit of that Institution, which thus occupies the first place in his solicitudes.

And then these shares should be allowed to multiply, by means of their accumulated interests and of the reinvestments of the latter, till they had reached the number of five hundred shares; and then, if and when an epidemic arose and the citizens fled from the city, the income of these shares for three years should be given to the Board of Health, for the use of those suffering from the epidemic. And when the shares had become two thousand, a commodious Lazaretto-house should be bought or built, with the income of not more than ten years. And after this, when the shares had become six thousand, one half or more of their interest should go towards the keep and nursing of the patients in this Lazaretto.

After these three stages devoted to the victims of the Plague, he determines the point at which the interest of the moneys shall be applied successively to providing marriage portions for honest poor girls of Genoa and of his home villages of Vernazza, Arvenza, and Cogoleto, preference being always given to the large clan of Vernazzi; to providing means for honest poor girls desiring to enter Convents that keep their Rule (monasteria observantiae), up to £100 each, with a similar preference as in the previous case.


And then he attends to the poor in general. To providing extra pay for the Notaries and Clerks of the “Uffizio della Misericordia,” “on condition that they devote all their time to the interests of the poor exclusively; and that they make diligent inquiry as to the means of the poor and their several characters, and find out whether they are in real want or not, and draw up a book in which all the poor, individuals and families, shall be inscribed clearly and by name,—in each case with a note indicating whether they belong to the first, second, or third degree of necessitousness.” To paying two Physicians and two Surgeons, for otherwise entirely gratuitous service of the sick poor alone, and doubling this pay during the prevalence of an epidemic, “but strictly enforcing the loss, in salary, of double the amount of any moneys they can be proved to have accepted from their patients.” All this, together with these four Doctors’ names, to be annually proclaimed in the streets by the town-crier. To paying a Dispenser and instituting a Dispensary, exclusively for the sick poor and entirely gratuitous, up to £2,000 a year for the latter. To appointing two Advocates and two Solicitors, for the exclusive and gratuitous service of the poor, in any and all cases of law-suits and molestations. The same proclamation as with the Doctors, to be made in this matter also. And to maintaining foundling boys and girls of Genoa, under provisions which are carefully laid down.

And then he turns to the three Institutions and their like with which he, as notary, as father and as philanthropist, has been specially identified. He fixes the point when two lectures in Philosophy or Theology, one by a Dominican and another by a Franciscan, are to be instituted, for every working day, in the Chapel of the Notaries of Genoa; when one free meal a month is to be provided for eight monastic and charitable institutions, amongst which are the Franciscans of the SS. Annunziata, the Benedictines of San Nicolò in Boschetto, the Canonesses of S. Maria delle Grazie, and the Hospital for Incurables,—“but the expenses are not to exceed £600 a year” (about six guineas each meal)—“nor is money to be given, but the eatables themselves are to be bought for, and given to, the institutions”; and when a Superintendent (Sindaco) of the Incurables is to be appointed, with £100 pay a year.

And then he comes back to the poor in general; and thinks also, (somewhat like unto his and Catherine’s ideal,[320] St. Paul as “a citizen of no mean city,”) of the external appearance and utility of his native town of Genoa. The point is fixed when they are to “pay for the poor their hardest imposts, especially those on food”; and when they are to “repair, decorate, and enlarge the Cathedral Church of San Lorenzo,” and to “build a harbour-mole, improve the harbour, and attend to the decoration and look of the town (ornamentis civitatis), according to their discretion.”

And he then finishes up with a characteristic reversion to efficacious solicitude for his clan, by marriage benefits for his young kinswomen in the future and by thought for his ancestors and predecessors in the past; and with a no less characteristic divinatory greatness of mind, by the creation of a kind of People’s College or Working-man’s University, which appears here curiously wedged in between the thoughts for his clan in the future and in the past. For he determines the points when the Protectors shall again provide for marrying honest poor girls of his three home villages, and for comforts for the prisoners at Christmas and Easter; when they are to “buy a large and well-situated house, and therein organize a public course of studies, with four Doctors of Law, four very learned Physicians, and two Masters of Grammar and Rhetoric, who shall, all ten, be each bound to deliver one lecture on every working day, and to devote all the rest of their time to the interests of the poor”; and when finally they are to provide for “Masses for his ancestors and predecessors,”—Masses for himself and immediate belongings having been already, no doubt, provided for in his previous Will, since we find such provisions repeated in his last Will, to be given later on.[315]

We thus get here a persistent preoccupation with the most manifold interests of the poor; a shrewd knowledge of men, and careful provisions calculated to rouse their indolence and to check their self-seeking; an utterly unsentimental, realistic, Charity-Organization sort of spirit shown in the insistence upon a careful and complete knowledge of the real degree and kind of want, and of the precise means appropriate for helping the various kinds of poor; a high estimate of knowledge, which he desires to offer to all, according to their various capacities and needs; and lastly, an entire freedom from pietism, for he thinks of, and provides for, harbour-works and the beautifying of the town. There is a large, open-air,[321] operative, sanely optimistic and statesmanlike spirit about it all.

And if all this is in full keeping with, and but expands and supplements, the tenacious realism of a born organizer and administrator: the soaring idealism and universalism of his saint-friend Catherine’s stimulation, and his and her joint experiences and interests, are also directly suggested to us. For there is the special stress laid on the plague-stricken, whom they had tended together in 1493; the interest in physicians and in drugs for the poor, an interest in which she must have preceded him by twenty years or more; and the repeated preoccupation with the marrying of poor young women, and, next after it, with the convent-dowries of girls in socially similar circumstances, in each case especially of kinswomen of his own. This preoccupation was no doubt occasioned chiefly by the thought of his own most happy marriage and of his own children, the two elder now already well settled as Nuns, but the third still possibly to be married; yet we are also vividly reminded of Catherine’s own repeated occupation with the marrying of relatives of her own, and Limbania’s and her own early entrance, and wish to enter, into the Religious state. And then his benefactions include Catherine’s Hospital Church, her favourite Boschetto Church, and that Convent of the Grazie, the scene of her own conversion and the home of her sister Limbania, as well as of his daughters Battista and Daniela. But indeed the whole character of the outlook, in its successive absorption in, each time, just one particular task; in its occupation with succour in proportion to the divinely ordained and ready-found bonds and ties of nature, bonds and ties so dear to the omnipresent God; and in its, nevertheless, in nowise restricting itself to this interest, but moving on and on, distance appearing beyond distance, with love and welcome for all the heroisms and helplessnesses: is all marked with Catherine’s imperial spirit of boundless self-donation.

VII. Ettore in Rome and Naples; his Second Will; his Work in the Genoese Prisons.

1. Ettore in Rome.

And perhaps already in 1513, but, if so, not before March of that year (the date of Pope Leo’s accession), Vernazza was in Rome,—hardly, I think, for the first time. And Battista[322] again tells us, in her long letter of 1581, how that “the incurables in Rome”—which was then, at the beginning of Giovanni de’ Medici’s (Leo X’s) reign, the brilliant centre of the Renaissance at its zenith—“were left to lie in baskets, moaning” for alms, “in the Churches. It was piteous to see them thus forsaken and badly cared for.”

Now there is good reason to think that Vernazza had known the Pope when, as Cardinal de’ Medici, he had, in 1500, stayed for some time in Genoa, in the house of his married sister, Donna Maddalena Cibò. And so Vernazza now presented himself before the Pope, “and said to him: ‘You, Holiness, have a fine work in hand, in patronizing the Arts and Letters: but you cannot leave this Rome of yours saddened by so piteous a spectacle.’” And the Pope thanked him, and begged him to accept the charge of founding and undertaking the government of the Arch-Hospital. And the two “Cardinals, Caraffa,” the vigorous and devoted, but harshly austere Neapolitan, who was, later on, joint-founder of the Theatines and then Pope Paul IV, “and Sauli,” the Genoese, “helped him in his work. Indeed the latter said to him: ‘If you require money, come to me.’”

And this Roman work of Vernazza straightway put forth two offshoots, far away. For “Caraffa founded in Venice a hospital on the model of the one in Rome.” And “there happened to be in Rome” at this time “a certain Bartholommeo Stella, a rich and very generous (molto galante) young man. And Vernazza saw him and gained such an influence with him as to end by sending him to Brescia, to promote there also these fruits of Christian faith.”

And in Rome itself “Leo X gave Vernazza practical proofs of his gratitude, and set him forth on his return journey with demonstrations of great honour (magnifiche demonstrazioni). And the Arch-Hospital having been thus set going and Vernazza being back in Genoa, Leo X addressed a Brief to him, informing him that his Hospital in Rome was in a state of confusion (andava sossopra); ‘I think’ (adds Battista) ‘because its Governors wanted each to be above the other.’ And he returned to Rome, and quieted all controversy.”[316] I take this second Roman journey to have been not before 1515; but it may have occurred any time before 1522, the year of Pope Leo’s death.


This group of facts shows Vernazza’s directness and independence of observation, his initiative and energy, and his courage and respectful liberty of speech, qualities which are all reminiscent of Catherine’s scene with the Friar; the rapidity with which a necessary work, which has been delayed for centuries, and which has required the whole-hearted vigour of a rare personality to call it into being, grows and multiplies, when once it is in existence; and the manner in which the petty, sterilizing ambitions of men can be efficiently checked only by a combination of strength of will, administrative ability, gentle tact and complete disinterestedness,—a combination which again reminds one of Catherine, the successful Rettora.

2. Ettore in Naples.

It will have been after this second visit to Rome that Vernazza first went to Naples. And there again “he formed a Hospital,” in this case “at the risk of his life; for some evil-wishers there wanted to kill him, being unable to bear the idea that a ‘foreigner’ should have anything to do with the affairs of the city (ordinasse quella città). Once the ‘Ave Maria’ had sounded, he did not again issue from his lodging during that day. And yet” even among such untoward circumstances, “he managed not to leave Naples before having, with God’s help, achieved his object,—of providing his much-loved poor with such an institution ready to their hand.”

It was in Naples, too, evidently at the beginning of this very visit, that another generous idea and institution of his first occurred to him, or at least was first put into execution. The whole occurrence reveals a curious mixture of the most divers qualities and, indeed, requires in part to be excused, on the ground of numerous external difficulties which stood in the way of an excellent work, and of the finessing methods evidently deemed, even by good people, to be quite allowable for attaining a good end, in this age of violence, suspicion and intrigue.[324] “A certain Religious, Padre Callisto of Piacenza, was preaching at that time in Naples. Vernazza went to him and said: ‘Father, these Neapolitans are a haughty people, and refuse to bend so low as to found hospitals. But during last night the thought came to me that if a person refuses to mount ten steps—it is still possible to get him to go up fifteen; and when such a person had done the latter, he would find that he had unconsciously mounted the ten as well. Now I cannot discover a more humiliating act than the accompanying of those who have been condemned to death, on their way to execution; and in this city they are led to the gallows with their minds in a state of desperation and without any one to comfort them. Well, then, do this. Preach to the people and tell them that the very first men of Naples have been to see you, with a view to founding a society for escorting these unhappy persons; and say to them: “Let him who cares to enter this society, come to me, to be inscribed on the rolls in a secrecy so complete that even a husband shall be unable to tell his wife.”’ And Padre Callisto, after hearing these words, did, devoted man that he was, his very best, and with such good effect that many went to have themselves inscribed. “But many of those Neapolitan nobles reproved him, saying: ‘Perchance you think yourself still in your Lombardy! We are nobles, and we refuse to form an escort for these culprits.’ And he would answer: ‘If your Lordship does not care to go, do not go. It was the very first men of Naples who sought me out, for the purpose of instituting this society.’ And thus it was actually founded, and indeed became very numerous and much honoured; and those unhappy men received much comfort. And later on, this same society proceeded to found the Hospital.”[317]

There is one repulsive feature in this story. For if the declaration that the very first men of the city had visited the preacher was a statement that damaged no one; which but anticipated what actually occurred soon after; and was the means for the effecting of two works, profoundly useful to all concerned in them and which could not, otherwise, at that time and place, have been carried out at all: yet it was a clear untruth. But all the rest, how admirable it is! Moral, and indeed physical courage; cool-headed, humorous, manly because unflinching, and yet quite uncynical and hopeful, knowledge of the petty perversities of the human heart; and entirely devoted, slow excogitation, concentration of will, and toughly resisting perseverance in a work of the purest philanthropy: all this and much else is visibly present.

3. Ettore’s Will of 1517.

It may well have been after his return from this journey that Vernazza drew up the Will which we still possess, dated 7th November 1517, and which is interesting in several respects.[318] For one thing, he orders his body to be buried in[325] the Church of the SS. Annunziata,—the Hospital Church, and leaves a legacy for Masses “to the Friars of the Annunziata of Genoa.”[319] And he leaves a similar bequest to the Benedictines of San Nicolò in Boschetto. It is clear that he wanted to be buried in the same Hospital Church as Catherine, and had a devotion similar to hers for the Pilgrimage Church upon the hill.

Secondly, there are careful records and provisions concerning his three children. As to his two eldest, Tommasa (Battista) and Catetta (Daniela), he simply looks back and “declares that he gave to his two daughters that are in the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, to them or to the said Monastery, three thousand Genoese pounds from his own property, and two hundred pounds in addition,—(the latter) spent upon their rooms, habits, and other requisites.” And that “these sums are to be counted as taking the place of dowries which would have accrued to them” (in case of marriage). But as to the youngest, Ginevrina, he looks both back and forwards. “The same Testator is well aware that he placed the said Ginevrina in the Monastery of Saint Andrew,[320] that she might grow up with good morals and in the fear of God, since Testator was unable to keep her by him, having very often been obliged, for the transaction of business in favour of the poor and for other charitable works, to proceed to Rome and other places; and that there existed written directions (of his) in the hands of the Nuns, as to Ginevrina being free, in due time and at the proper age, to choose either to serve God (in Religion), or to marry according to the social rank of the Testator.” And he confirms a legacy of £500, already promised by him to Ginevrina “as appears from a certain document signed by the Abbess of the said Monastery of Saint Andrew”: this money being no doubt in addition to another sum already paid by him to the[326] Convent; and the whole is evidently intended to pay for Ginevrina’s keep, if necessary for life, in case she neither entered Religion nor married. “In case of her becoming a Nun and making her Profession in the said Monastery, he leaves her £100, for the adapting and furnishing of one room for her use; nor can these £100 be spent otherwise.” And if she chooses to wed, the Protectors of the Incurables, his Executors and Heirs, “are to marry her to some young man of good reputation and behaviour, apt at managing his own affairs and at earning money,—all this as perfectly as possible, according to the judgment of the said Protectors.” If she thus marries with their consent, she is to have £3,000 for her dowry; but if she marries without it, she is to have only £1,500.

Here we note Ettore’s high esteem for business capabilities: they are to be required of his possible son-in-law, as one of the conditions for gaining the full dowry; and the curiously unmodern certainty with which he assumes that his still quite young daughter will desire, should she become a Nun, to do so at Sant’ Andrea, and, should she neither wed nor enter Religion, is sure to care to live on for life in this one convent. As a matter of fact Ginevrina, who was evidently very happy at Sant’ Andrea, took the veil there, still during her father’s lifetime, hence within seven years of this date, as Sister Maria Archangela.[321]

And thirdly, we get the striking provision that “any member of the Society of Priests and Laymen” who administer the Hospital for Incurables, “shall have the use of the furniture of the Testator (there remaining), on condition that such member live in this Hospital or in that of the Pammatone (hard by), and not otherwise.” He thus comes back here, once again, to one of the deepest convictions of his life: that only by actually living amongst and with the poor, poor yourself; only by doing the work which the right hand finds to do, with such might and thoroughness that both hands, indeed the whole man, body and soul, are drawn into, and are, as it were, coloured by it: that only by such fraternal-paternal sympathetic identification with its object can such service really rise above the dreary perfunctoriness and the ghastly optimism of mere officialism, and have the fruitfulness begotten only by life directly touching life. And here[327] Catherine’s spirit and example, her long life in the very midst of the great Hospital close at hand, are once more fully apparent.

4. Ettore in the Genoese prisons.

And, about this time, Vernazza introduced into Genoa the practice and Society which he had first founded in Naples. It was carried out, here also, in the profoundest secrecy. His “Company of St. John the Baptist Beheaded” consisted of himself and three companions: Salvage, Lomellino, and Grimaldo. The Lomellini now owned Giuliano’s former Palace in the Via S. Agnese, and the Grimaldi were one of the great Guelph families of Genoa. These four “took a house with a garden, in an out-of-the-way position; and there they started their association. And ever after, when the members met, they always prayed for these their four founders; and always, my Father being dead, began with his name: ‘Dominus Hector de Vernatia requiescat in pace.’” “I once,” adds Battista, “asked the priest who was their Confessor: ‘What matters do they discuss, when they are thus assembled?’ But he answered: ‘I may not tell’; and put on a particular expression and said: ‘The Hospital for Incurables has only ten thousand lire, and it spends twenty-six thousand. And the Giuseppine and the Convertite’ (two other favourite good works of Vernazza) ‘have also to be provided for!’”[322] Evidently the subject-matter of all this elaborate secrecy consisted in plans and means for aiding the condemned (often enough innocent or but politically guilty persons) and benefiting the poor; and the privacy was an imperious necessity in those harsh, turbulent and suspicious times. It was Vernazza’s own Roman patron and collaborator, the Neapolitan Cardinal Caraffa, who later on, as Pope, imprisoned for two years (1557-1559), in the Castle of St. Angelo, the great and saintly Cardinal Morone, on ungrounded suspicion of heresy; and it was his other patron and most intimate fellow-worker, the Genoese Cardinal Sauli, who, later on, was himself tortured and put to death, the victim of political hatred and suspicion, in his own native city.

And now, (conversely from 1461, when a Fregoso Doge had driven out an Adorno,) an Adorno Doge had just driven out and exiled a Fregoso, and had executed Paolo da Novi. And Vernazza[328] “knew well a close friend of this Doge Adorno, one who indeed had helped him to his dignity. And yet afterwards they became mortal enemies, and the Doge condemned his former close friend to death. Now this man having been,” continues Battista, “attended by some one all night, who tried to comfort him and bring him to patience, the poor prisoner somehow derived no consolation from his attendant’s endeavours, but went on repeating: ‘When I remember all that I have done for him…!’ And it was impossible to quiet him. Then he who was spending the wakeful night with him, having noted that all his words had been hitherto of no avail, inspired by God, took another way and said: ‘Indeed and indeed you are right,’ and made himself infirm with the infirm, and echoed all that the prisoner said, making it appear as though he himself, in a similar case, would be likely to act identically. And then, and only then, the condemned man began to feel relief, and started the telling of his own trouble. And when his companion had agreed to all his points, and at last noticed that the prisoner had thoroughly ventilated all his grievance, he said: ‘Indeed, my dear brother, you do not merit this death; but reflect whether, before these occurrences, you did not perform some action which merited it.’ Then the latter reconsidered his case, and said at last: ‘Yes,—I killed a man.’ And his companion replied: ‘Behold, my brother, the true cause of your death’; and added other most appropriate words with such good effect that the man became profoundly contrite and died in the very best dispositions of soul.” “Now I think,” comments Battista, “that the companion was a member of the Society of St. John Baptist, and was, indeed, my Father himself; since my Father told me the story too much in vivid detail (troppo per sottile) for him to have been only a reporter. I believe that, to this hour, this society is carrying on the same kind of work.”[323]

Here again we have the same irrepressible, humorously resourceful, tenderly shrewd and world-experienced service of God, in and through His image, in any and every fellow-man; the same breadth in thoroughness; the same universality working itself out, and achieving its substance and self-consciousness, in the particular, as we saw at work in Naples. And this activity, all but its humour, recalls the soaring, world-embracing spirit of Catherine absorbed in self-identification[329] with the pestiferous woman’s dying aspirations and with the cancer-disfigured navvy’s preoccupations for his little wife.

VIII. Ettore again in Naples; his Death in Genoa; Peculiarities of his Posthumous Fame.

1. Naples and the Signora Lunga.

It must have been before this prison experience, for Ottaviano Fregoso was still Doge, that Vernazza was again in Naples, and that a thoroughly characteristic, romantic little episode occurred, which not all her seventy-one years of convent life, and the sixty years that had elapsed since its happening, prevent Battista from recounting with a delightfully entire sympathy.

Here in Naples, then, “he joined hands with a certain rich lady, called the Signora Lunga, for the purpose of procuring as many things as possible” for the institutions which he himself had founded or occasioned. This lady, a Spaniard, had been the wife (she was now the widow) of Giovanni Lungo or Longo, President of the Sacred Council.[324] “They went together from house to house, begging for mattresses” for the Hospital. “And this lady now withdrew from the world at large, and lived in that Hospital, and governed and ruled it; and combined with this the execution of other works of mercy. And she had so great a devotion for my Father, that she was wont to say to him: ‘If you were to tell me to cut and wound my own person, indeed I would straightway do it.’ But on Fregoso writing and pressing him to return to Genoa, Vernazza wrote back, that if he, the Doge, promised to be favourable to him, and to help him in a good work which he had in his mind, he, Vernazza, would come at once. And the Doge wrote back that he would do all that Vernazza wished. And then, one morning early” (no doubt at dawn), “not wishing that the Signora Lunga should see him depart, he got into the saddle. And she, by good chance, saw him, and asked him: ‘Where are you going?’ And he struck his spurs into his mule: ‘To Genoa,’ he cried; and flew away; and never saw the Signora Lunga any more.”[325]

Something fresh and bracing breathes and beats here still.[330] We have here the same man who, devoted in every good and filial way to Catherine, had yet left her, no doubt then also on an errand of large-hearted mercy, even in those last days of her life; who now, once again, breaks suddenly away; and who does so again at the call of souls entirely without conventional claims upon him, and who are quite unable to repay him with anything that merely drifting nature ever can hold dear. But here the relation is evidently not that of a man towards a woman much older than himself, and of the spiritual discipleship of a relatively inexperienced soul towards one already far advanced in sanctity: it is clearly one of at least parity of age,—perhaps, indeed, the woman was the younger of the two,—and of largely equal companionship, which would presumably, unchecked, have easily led on to an entirely honourable and happy marriage. And thus, once again, his devotedness had to live and thrive on concrete, untransferable renouncements and sacrifices claimed by his true self in that unique moment and situation: and this too although he will have been at least tempted wistfully to try and delude himself with the monstrous superstition of an automatic sanctity, a merely theoretic and yet somehow real heroism.

2. The Plague and Ettore’s death in Genoa, June 1524.

“And, arrived in Genoa,” Vernazza “revealed the secret of his heart to the Doge, and his Lordship gave him seven thousand lire and the Privilege,”—the latter being necessary, “since no one cared to have the Lazaretto” (for this was Vernazza’s project) “in proximity to their villas,” and hence the Government had to insist upon its foundation upon the least inconvenient of the various possible sites. And Vernazza in consequence “began to construct a great building for the poor victims of the Plague, and presented it with an endowment of one hundred shares of St. George’s, leaving them to multiply, so that at his death they had increased by eleven shares; and now” (in 1581) “they have reached a great number of thousands of pounds.” And after continuing with an account of his further Bank dispositions, and of his early attempts to help the poor (already given by us), Battista finishes up this part of her account by declaring: “he was wont to go about saying, with conviction and great confidence, that he hoped all things from God; and that, whenever he put his hand to anything, God put the yeast into that paste.”[326]


And her mention of the Lazaretto then leads her on to the final, still vivid and yet self-restrained, account of her father’s death. “The Plague being very severe (calda) in Genoa,”—it was past mid-June 1524,—“he came to visit me, and said to me: ‘What do you think I had better do? I am determined in no manner to forsake the poor. Do you think I had better go about on horseback or on foot? In which way do you think I would be safest from infection?’ ‘Oh, Father,’ I said, ‘here we are coming to the Feast of the Baptist, and are at the highest of the heat; and you are determined to go amongst them?’ And he: ‘And is it my fate, to hear such things from you? How truly happy should I be, if I were to die for the poor!’ Then I, seeing so much fortitude in that holy soul, said to him: ‘Father, go.’ But he was not content with looking after the Lazaretto: I think that he scoured the country far and wide. And hence he caught the infection. And on the” (Eve of) “the Feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist,” June 23, “he confessed and communicated. And in three days he quietly fell asleep in the Lord.”[327]

Surely rarely has so noble a finish been so nobly told! And two things in particular are deserving of special notice. First, there is here again that characteristic combination of quiet reflective common-sense and self-oblivious devotedness. Who could anticipate that the man who so carefully weighed the respective risks of different methods of visiting the sick, would, at the same time, be full of a glad willingness, indeed desire, to die for them? Yet not only does this rich soul exhibit such a living paradox, with an apparent ease and spontaneity, but it is this very extraordinary variety in unity that is an operative cause and element both of the greatness of the act and of its appealingness.

And secondly, it is, I think, not far-fetched to find in this heroic death-ride, if not a direct or even a conscious effect, yet at all events an impressive illustration of, and practical parallel to, Catherine’s teaching as to Heaven being already[332] present everywhere where pure love energizes, and to her picture of the soul’s glad Purgatorial plunge. We know that it was Vernazza himself who, say in 1497, drew forth from her that teaching; and we shall find that it was predominantly he who so carefully registered for us in writing those numerous, vivid picturings of the soul’s joyously voluntary self-dedication to suffering and apparent death. And whether at the moment fully conscious of this or not, his act of some twenty years later illustrates and embodies that teaching; and that teaching again universalizes and brings home to us this action. High on horseback he goes forth, the strong, sound-bodied, whole-hearted man, deliberately sure of finding and of bringing Heaven, wheresoever pure love may be wanted and may joyously appear: joyously fruitful, amidst the very ghastliness of death. And he is rapidly brought low, first on to his bed of sickness, and in a few days into the grave. Indeed he himself had, by his own act, gladly accepted, we may say willed, all this: he himself had cast himself down and away into that deep common fosse, amongst the many thousands of his ever-obscure and now disfigured friends and fellow-dead.

3. His posthumous fame; its unlikeness to Catherine’s celebrity.

For so it was indeed. Instead of burial in the Pammatone Church, under the same roof with his saintly inspirer, the poor pestilential body was buried away, amongst the whole army of others who, like himself, had died of the Plague, without a stone or token of any kind, to mark where this simple hero lay. Nor was it till 1633, over a century later, that a statue was erected to him at his Lazaretto. For the bust in the rooms of his “Compagnia del Mandiletto” is hardly older; and the hideous gaunt plaster statue in the Albergo dei Poveri is no doubt much younger still.

Only in 1867, on June 23, the anniversary of the day on which he prepared himself to die, was a memorial erected to him which is truly worthy of the man. Santo Varni’s more than life-size marble statue, which represents Vernazza seated, a strongly built man still in his years of vigour, with a head and countenance striking because of their lofty brow, powerful chin, spiritual, mobile lips, large, keen, far-outward-looking eyes; and with thoroughly individual, operative yet sensitive hands, the left extended open, as though to give and ever again to give, and the right reposing upon the case containing[333] the Chart of the Hospital’s foundation: stands, a striking symbol, in the vestibule of the Hospital for Incurables which he founded, where for fifteen years he lived, and where he died.[328] One would be glad to think that the likeness of this admirable work of art reposed upon grounds more direct than one or other of the very late and unworthy representations that preceded it; the authentic portrait of his daughter Battista,[329] who may, after all, have been unlike him in looks; and the sympathetic imagination of a great artist. It was Vernazza himself who prevented any contemporary representation of his own features. For Battista tells us, in her letter of 1581, “he also mortified himself in any inclination to honour. Thus, as is well known, when the Lazaretto had been erected, and he was asked to have his portrait painted to be placed there, he answered: ‘I do not want smoke,’ and refused to act as he was bidden.”[330]

Now here we cannot but find a contrast between Catherine and Ettore; yet it only concerns their posthumous earthly fate and fame. A picture of Catherine was, no doubt, no more painted in her lifetime with her knowledge than was a portrait of Ettore. Yet we know that, in her case, a picture was painted, if not secretly during her lifetime, in any case by some eyewitness, and not more than eighteen months after her death; and a popular religious Cultus to her sprang up and grew, on occasion of that early opening of her coffin. But Ettore has to wait over a century for his first artistic embodiment, and of religious Cultus there was never any question.[331] Whence this difference? Have we any kind of reason for suspecting Ettore’s heroism, indeed sanctity of life and death? Was he indeed clearly much the lesser in the Kingdom of God than was his friend?

The question, it will be noted, does not imply any criticism of the Church’s wise requirement of a previous Cultus, as one[334] of the conditions for the introduction of any and every Process; still less is there any disposition to call in question the choice of Catherine for saintly honours, a choice which this whole book would hope to demonstrate as particularly courageous, wise and indeed providential. The point raised concerns simply the psychology of popular devotion, and the human reason why, given that one was certainly a Saint and the other was presumably another one, there is this marked contrast in the posthumous history of these two lives.

Now if the question be taken thus, the answer can hardly be doubtful. Certainly not because of her profoundly original doctrine, by which Catherine is speculatively more interesting and humanly more complete than Vernazza, was Catherine prized and preferred to Vernazza by the crowd. Nor did they single her out precisely because of her works and long life of mercy, for Vernazza’s labours of this kind no doubt exceeded Catherine’s, both in their variety and in their visible extension. But it was the psycho-physical peculiarities of the life of Catherine, and the more or less complete incorruption of the body: these two things, neither of which has any necessary connection with that faithful and heroic use of free-will and that spirit and grace of God in which the whole substance of sanctity consists, which, each leading on and back to and strengthening the impression and tradition of the other, determined the outbreak and onflow of popular devotion in the one case, and the absence of which prevented the growth of any such cultus in the other. And thus we have here one more instance of the pathetic irony of fate, or rather one of those many mysterious operations of the divine will which, under the ebb and flow of influences that seem merely human and deteriorative, works in history for the slow upward-raising of our poor kind.

When the well-known ecstatic Augustinian Nun, Anne Catharine Emmerich, died at Dülmen, in Westphalia, on February 6, 1824, her remains also were not long allowed to rest undisturbed in the grave. Already in mid-March the poetess Luise Hensel, who had much loved and venerated her, caused the grave to be opened quite privately, in hopes of finding the body still incorrupt, and of once more being able to gaze on that striking countenance. And a few days later, on March 21 and 22, the grave and coffin were again, this time officially, opened. In both cases the body was found still incorrupt, and two pale red spots appeared on the cheeks.[335] But when, on October 6, 1858, the grave was opened a third and last time, nothing was found of the coffin but one nail, and the body was now represented only by so many separate bones.[332] Now when, some twenty years ago, I visited Dülmen in the company of a distinguished Münster Priest, the latter told me, as we stood together by the grave-side, that this discovery had greatly checked the survivals or beginnings of any such local and popular cultus as had been expected and hoped for by Anne Catharine’s, mostly distant or foreign, admirers.

Similar cases it would be easy to multiply; and they all point to the great advantage, probably to the actually determining incentive, which accrued to the Cultus of Catherine, in that her body continued more or less incorrupt, and thus added a sensible marvel after death to the sensible marvels of her fasts and ecstasies during life. Whereas Catharine Emmerich’s analogous psycho-physical condition during life was not thus reinforced by an unusual physical condition after death. And Ettore, again, had evidently nothing physically, or even psycho-physically, abnormal about him, either in life or in death.




We have, in the characters described in the previous Chapter, dwelt upon figures remarkably unlike Catherine, on her psycho-physical side. Yet it would be only too easy for us now-a-days, by dwelling too much upon the foregoing contrast, to grow actually unfair to Catherine’s kind of temperament and health, and to her mode of apprehending truth and of attaining sanctity. We might thus come to overlook or to underestimate the important fact that certain psycho-physical, neural peculiarities or states most certainly constitute the general antecedents, concomitants or consequences (probably, indeed, one of the necessary though secondary conditions), not indeed of sanctity, but of at least some forms of the contemplative gift, habit, and attainment. We might, too, forget that neither this contemplative gift itself, nor even those neural peculiarities, are at all incompatible with great practical shrewdness and an unusually large external activity; indeed that such rare and costly contemplative picturings and symbolizations of the Unseen are, when true and deep, means and helps for the contemplative, in his own life and often still more in his influence upon others, towards a great recollection and concentration, which would not only turn the soul away from the dispersion and feverishness that sets in towards the close of external action, but would also bring it back renewed to such outward-moving, joyful-humble creativeness, as wholesome recollection itself requires. For without such contact with the material and the opposition of external action, recollection grows gradually empty; and without recollection, external action rapidly becomes soul-dispersive. Hence it is plain, that the true significance and living system of any such deep soul may be on too large a scale not to require, for its due exhibition, that we survey it[337] in connection with some other supplementary life,—like unto some Gobelin design or cloth-pattern, so large as to require two contiguous walls or two human figures to show its totality by means of their combination.

Now Vernazza the father, who throughout his life possessed the most robust and normal health, can fairly be taken as Catherine’s supplementary figure, for the years when ill-health was limiting her normal range of energies, on their operatively outgoing, philanthropic side; and is thus a living protest against isolating Saints’ lives from their complementary extensions and effects. But Battista, his daughter, gives us, in her own person and up to the end of her life, an example of the combination and stimulating interaction of the Contemplative and the Practical, the Transcendent and the Immanental, the heroically normal and Universal and the tenderly Personal, indeed the more or less psycho-physically peculiar. Catherine was the greater, more original, and more winning Contemplative, and Ettore was more massively Practical than was Battista. Yet Battista possessed both gifts, from early times up to the end, apparently unclouded and unbroken by any kind of incapacitation.

I. Battista’s Life, from April 1497 to June 1510.

We have already seen how Ettore’s eldest child was born on April 15, 1497, and was held at the font by Catherine, receiving, however, the name of Tommasa, after the God-father, the celebrated Doctor of Law, Tommaso Moro. Giuliano was still alive, but already gravely ill. Nothing could well prove more clearly Vernazza’s closeness of friendship for the Adorna and for Moro than his making them thus his first-born’s God-parents. And Moro’s subsequent history makes this, his intimate collocation and spiritual affinity with Catherine a matter suggestive of much reflection.

With her beautiful young mother still alive and living at home with her, Tommasa, a child of precocious intelligence, took to writing verse of various kinds, as early as at ten years of age. Vallebona quotes, from Semeria’s Secoli Christiani della Liguria, ten short lines written by her at that age, and which he apparently holds to have been addressed to her God-mother. They are, however, too vague and hyperbolical for one to be sure as to whom they are dedicated; her own[338] mother or the Blessed Virgin would, I think, fit the case respectively as well as, or better than, Catherine. The “short days” prophesied for herself by the little girl, were destined to amount to ninety years![333]

On her mother dying, some time in 1508 or 1509,—Bartolommea can hardly have been more than thirty-two years of age, and Ettore some six years older,—Vernazza decided, as we know, against continuing an establishment of his own and keeping his three daughters with him. It is certain from his Wills that he had no near female relative whom he could have asked to come and help, or to take, the children; and clear that he was determined not to marry again, so as to remain completely free for his philanthropic work. And hence he was driven to the alternative of boarding the girls in the two convents that we know.

And already on June 24, 1510, on the feast of her father’s favourite Saint and prison-work Patron, Tommasa received the habit of an Augustinian Canoness of the Lateran, and changed her name to Battista. Catherine had still not quite twelve weeks to live, and may well have been deeply interested in her God-daughter’s taking of the veil in that very Convent and at the very age where and when she herself had, half-a-century before, desired to receive it.[334] We cannot but feel that the Superiors were wise who, at that earlier date, had found thirteen too young an age for even an Italian, so early physically mature, and a Catherine, so little suited for marriage, to take even this first and revocable step in the Religious life; and we would doubtless have experienced some uneasiness at the time when Tommasa was somehow[339] allowed to take this identical step at the very same age. Yet we have, as we shall see, full and absolutely conclusive, because first-hand, evidence, that every one concerned in the case acted with true insight. Rarely indeed can a woman have been more emphatically in her right place, than Battista during her seventy-seven years at Santa Maria delle Grazie. And this complete and comfortable appropriateness of vocation no doubt helped her large, balanced, virile mind to feel, with the Church, that such a vocation is but one amongst the numberless forms of even heroic devotedness, a devotedness of which the essence is interior and is capable of being exercised, and which requires to be represented in every honest circumstance and calling of God’s great, many-coloured world.

Of Catetta’s further history, beyond her reception of the veil in the same Convent, under the name of Daniela, some time before November 1517, and of Ginevrina’s later lot, beyond her becoming a Cistercian Nun, under the name of Maria Archangela, at Sant’ Andrea, some time between 1517 and 1524, I have been unable to discover anything. But as to Battista, I wish to dwell upon three characteristic episodes of her long life; they all three throw much light both upon Catherine and (still more) upon the whole question of Mysticism.

II. Battista and her God-father, Tommaso Moro.

The first episode illustrates the rigoristic side of the pre-Reformation Catholic temper and teaching, and the terrible complications, perplexities and pitfalls of those strenuous, confusing times. For we must now move on fifteen further years from that interview with her father, a few days before his death, in June 1524, to reach this event, the first fresh one in Battista’s life of which we have a record.

1. The early stages of Lutheranism and Calvinism.

The Religious Revolution had now well nigh reached its culmination. Battista’s father had only lived to see what may rightly be termed the first step in the Teutonic stage and element of the movement, a stage which, in spite of its political and social, indeed religious, violences and fanaticisms,—and even these came mostly after Vernazza’s death,—retained, if in large part illogically yet with great practical advantage, a considerable portion of the old Catholic convictions[340] and spiritual attitude. Luther had indeed, as we saw, published his Theses in 1517, and Pope Leo X had condemned nearly one-half of them in 1520 in his Bull of Excommunication. And Melanchthon, the mild and deeply learned, had also broken with the Old Church, and had begun, in 1521, the publication of his Loci. But an earnest Catholic (in this case a Teutonic) Reformer had become Pope, in the person of Adrian Dedel of Utrecht (Hadrian VI), in 1522, 1523. And in the very year of Ettore’s heroic death, Erasmus, proving, under the stress of the times, substantially true to the Old Faith, was writing against Luther; whilst in Italy, Vernazza’s old patron, Cardinal Caraffa, was helping to found the Theatine Order.

But within the next fifteen years matters move on and further. For first the Teutonic stage of the Revolution takes its second step, and hardens, and formally and permanently organizes itself; whilst its socially anarchical effects reach their zenith. For there are the Peasants’ War and Luther’s marriage in 1525; and the capture and the sack of Rome by the Imperial (largely Lutheran) troops in 1527; and the Revolutionists’ assumption of the name of “Protestants,” at the Diet of Speyer, in 1529. And, on the Roman Church’s part, the Capuchins are founded in 1525, and the Barnabites in 1530. And this whole Teutonic stage of the Revolution can be taken as closed, for the time, by the terrible Saturnalia of the Anabaptists at Münster, 1533-1535; the executions of the Catholic Humanists, Bishop Fisher and Chancellor More, in England, 1535; and Erasmus’s death in 1536.

And the second element and stage, the Romanic Revolution, was now fully and independently at work, with its indefinitely greater coldness and logical completeness, and its systematic antagonism to the Old Faith. And if the Saxon Mystical-minded Peasant-monk, Luther, stood at the head and in the centre of the first movement, the Picardese bourgeois lawyer and Humanist, Calvin, stands now at the head of this second movement. Born in 1509, he flees, now an avowed Protestant, in 1535 to Basle; and in the spring of 1536 publishes his Institutio Religionis Christianae, which was destined to remain his chief work.

Now it was in the summer of that year that Calvin went to stay at the Court of Renée de Valois, daughter of the French King Louis XII, and Duchess of Ferrara, who had already been gained over to the cause of the Lutheran[341] Reformers; and who was now influenced, by her grim, relentless guest, to move still further away from the Old Church. And though the Roman Inquisition succeeded in forcing Calvin to leave Italy, after not many weeks’ stay: yet the cases of Vittoria Colonna, Bernardino Occhino, and of our Tommaso Moro, show us all plainly, though each differently, how complex and difficult, how obscure and full of pitfalls, was the situation for even permanently loyal and indeed saintly, and still more for simply earnest and eager, souls. For Vittoria Colonna, that truly saint-like daughter of the Church, not only stays, during the following year, with the Duchess Renée at Ferrara, and indeed stands God-mother to her daughter Eleonora (born June 19, 1537), the child that, later on, became the friend of the poet Tasso: but Vittoria is the close friend and confidante of that most zealous preacher, that restless, ardent, absolute-minded Bernardino Occhino, who, born in Siena in 1487, had joined the Franciscan Reform, the later Capuchins, in 1534, and indeed, in 1539, became their General. It is to Vittoria indeed that, on his deciding not to obey the summons to Rome, there to defend himself against the (no doubt, in part, unfair) attacks upon his teaching, he, in the night of August 22, 1542, before his flight and abandonment of his Order and of the Church, writes his still extant sad and saddening letter of self-exculpation.[335] But this latter catastrophe was not to take place till three years after the date at which I would now linger.

2. Moro becomes a Calvinist: probable causes of this step.

It must, I think, have been through some influence emanating from the not very far away Ferrara, that the Genoese Tommaso Moro was, just about this time, carried away into Calvinism. We must not forget that, deplorable as was such an aberration, there were two excuses for him, which would apply no doubt, in varying degrees, to many others even of those who were, at this time, permanently lost to the Church.

For one thing the views held, and allowably held, during two or three generations, on points of Grace and Free-will, of Predestination and the corruption of the natural man, by even those whom the Church eventually raised to her Altars, were, as a matter of fact, less removed from the Protestant Reformers’ positions, than were probably any views (with the exception[342] of the extreme Jansenist position) which have prevailed in the Catholic Church since the Protestant Reformation. St. Catherine, Moro’s fellow God-parent, had expressed herself, in certain moods, in so rigoristic a sense on these deep matters, as to invite the comment of the Bollandist Sticker that these passages are caute legenda.[336] Yet Catherine, in speaking thus, simply resembled probably all her really earnest contemporaries—witness the great Paris Chancellor Jean Gerson, some time before, and the devoted Cardinals Contarini and Morone and Vittoria Colonna, a little after Catherine’s own zenith.[337]

Again, the practical, moral abuses were most real and often very pressing; and whilst the numerous attempts at Reform extending now over a century (the Council of Constance had assembled in 1414) had emphasized this fact, they had also plainly shown, by their practical abortiveness, how very difficult the attainment of such a universally desired Reform persisted in appearing, if there was to be no final breach with Rome.

And the fullest consequences of such a breach could not be present to the experience, or even to the imagination, of the first who made it, as they are to us, or even as they were after the second step of the Romanic Revolution had been taken by Lelio Socino, the Sienese and his nephew Fausto Socino, the founders of Socinianism, who died respectively in 1562 and 1604,—the former shortly after Occhino had died, in 1560, miserably alone and out of the Catholic Roman Church.

3. Battista’s letter to Moro, September 1537; its effect.

Now it was on September 10, 1537, that his Augustinian God-daughter wrote, to her now Calvinist God-father, a letter which occupies five pages of print in the fifth, a handsome octavo, edition of her works published in Genoa in 1755. Though the earliest of all her extant, or at least of her printed, letters, it is evidently an answer to a communication of his, in which he had urged certain objections against the Roman Church. And that communication must have been provoked by a first letter from herself—a letter which, though probably less theologically interesting and learned, will have been more uniformly touching than the one preserved. Yet if that first note had clearly succeeded in getting him to state his case,[343] this second letter also, we shall see, completely attained its still more important object.

Moro had insisted that the Roman Church followed merely human inventions in the matter of (1) Fasting; (2) Confession; (3) the Real Presence; (4) Public Prayer and Psalmody; (5) Vows; and (6) Extreme Unction.—The order is curious, but is evidently not hers but his. Extreme Unction stands in the obvious position—at the end. The vows of Religion immediately precede it, probably because, at this time, they typified something not only irrevocable but sepulchral to this ardent Calvinist. Public Prayer and Psalmody would naturally precede these vows, as an appropriate link between the life of the cloister, so largely given to the Divine Office, and the Real Presence, its celebration being and requiring the most marked of all the exhibitions of Public Prayer. Confession would stand before the Real Presence, as being actually practised before the reception of Communion. And Fasting, finally, would precede Confession, and would, most characteristically, head the whole list, because the completest and most universally binding of all Fasts is that which is antecedent to Holy Communion; and because, in beginning thus, Moro can start his attack on the Church by the criticism of something that is obviously and avowedly external.

The tone of Battista’s answer is interesting throughout, for a double reason. There is in it a successful, very difficult combination of filial respect and of lofty reproof; and there runs through all the argumentation a sort of legal hard-headedness, entirely in its place on the lips of the lawyer’s daughter in dealing with her lawyer correspondent. I give her answers to his second and fifth objections, since the former is interesting as touching on the point of the obligation and frequency of Sacramental Confession, which has occupied us much in her God-mother’s life; and the latter gives a vivid insight into Battista’s own deeply genuine and happy vocation.

As to Confession, she writes:[344] “You hold one opinion, and the Church holds another; and to this Church it has not appeared good to constrain us to confess ourselves in public, nor always to manifest our whole interior to any and every man who may reprehend us. In this latter case we should have been left without any protection. You grudge obeying her once a year; how then would you carry out the other plan? Certainly the said Church would have but little authority if she could not lay down ordinances, according to her own judgment, concerning the mode (of administration and reception) of the Sacraments already ordained by Christ.”

As to Vows, she finishes up by declaring: “According to my humble judgment, that thing cannot be called slavery which a soul elects for itself, by an act of free choice alone, and with a supreme desire. And in this matter you really can trust me, since here I am, living under the very test of experience, and yet I have no consciousness of being bound to any obligation: so little indeed that, if I had full licence from God to do all those things of which I have deprived myself by my vows, I would do neither more nor less than what I now am actually doing; indeed no taste for anything beyond these latter things arises within me. How then do you come to give the name of servitude to that which gets embraced thus with supreme delight? Perchance you will say ‘not every one is thus disposed.’ My dear Sir: he who does not find this inclination within him, let him not execute it. Neither Christ nor His Church constrain any one in this matter.”[338]

The effect of this homely and sensible, straightforward and firm, first-hand witness to a strong soul’s full daily life of faith and self-expansion in and for Christ in His extension, the Old Church, was evidently decisive, perhaps immediate. It is at least certain that Tommaso Moro came back to the Roman obedience; that he became and died a Priest and Religious; and that his return is universally attributed to the instrumentality of this letter.[339]

III. Battista’s Colloquies, November 1554 to Ascension-Day 1555.

Yet her letters form but a small part of the literary output of this many-sided woman. Her printed writings fill six stout volumes, in all some 2,400 octavo pages, and fall into four chief divisions. The independent verses consist only of four “Canticles of Divine Love,” twelve “Spiritual Canticles,” and five “Sonnets.” Yet even the second division, which alone fills quite five out of the six volumes, and consists of Spiritual Discourses or Dissertations, contains much verse, since the Discourse (which invariably takes its title and starting-point[345] from some, originally or interpretatively, Mystical Biblical text) usually finishes up with a chapter of eight verses, in which she sums up metrically the doctrine which she has just expounded in finely balanced and stately prose. Mostly proceeding from some Pauline, or, more often still, some Joannine text, these writings evince throughout a fine Christian-Platonist breadth of outlook and concentration and expansion of devotional feeling, and have much of that unfading freshness which appertains to the universal experiences of religion, wherever these are experienced deeply and anew and are communicated largely in the form and tone of their actual experimentation. These Discourses would also, of course, furnish all but endless parallels and illustrations to Catherine’s teachings.

Yet it is the last two divisions of Battista’s writings which are the most entirely characteristic and suggestive—her Colloquies and her Letters. As to the seventy-five pages of letters, I have already given extracts from two, of the years 1581 and 1589, and shall presently give portions of two others, of the years 1575 and 1576. But in this section I want to translate and comment upon a considerable portion of her Colloquies, so interesting for various reasons, all directly connected with the subject of this book. These contemporary annotations occupy only eleven pages of print, but they constitute, I think, one of the most instructive first-hand documents of mystical and religious psychology in existence, and have nowhere, as yet, received any of the comparative and analytic study they so richly deserve.

It is but right to remember throughout, that even all her other writings (including the Discourses which are so general and, in a manner, quite public in their tone) were, with the sole exception of her Sonnets, none of them printed with her knowledge and consent. A certain Secular Priest, Gaspare Scotto, did indeed print some at least of the Discourses, without her knowledge, during her long lifetime; but the Colloquies were certainly never meant for any eyes other than her own, and were doubtless not printed, or indeed known, until after her death. I suppose them to have first appeared in the collected edition of her works, published in 1602, fifteen years after her demise.

Now these Colloquies belong to three periods. The first set is timed vaguely una volta; and the third is also but approximately fixed; but the second, by far the longest and[346] most important series, is, at its main turning-points, dated with absolute precision. And since its authenticity, the identity of the chronicler with the experiencing person, and the complete contemporaneousness of the record, are all beyond cavil or question (the majority of the entries were evidently put down by her on the very day, often probably within the hour, of the cessation of the experience thus chronicled)—the document can serve as a simply first-hand illustration of, and commentary on, the analogous experiences of Battista’s God-mother, experiences which, in the latter case, were nowhere recorded by their subject, nor indeed by others till probably, in some cases, a considerable time after their occurrence. And if here again there can be no difficulty, for any sincere and consistent believer, in holding that we have to do with enlightenments of the mind and stimulations of the affections and will, proceeding as truly from God as they led back to Him: we cannot but, here again, find plentiful indications of the antecedent material, and of the co-operation, response, and special colour furnished throughout by the human subject’s special sex and age, race and period, temperament, training, and reading. Not all the latter conditions put together would explain even half of the total experience; yet had these conditions been different, the total experience would have differed, not indeed in its fundamental contents, yet in its special forms and applications. As matters stand, these latter are often strikingly like those manifested in the teaching of Catherine, Battista’s fellow-Genoese. I will now take the nine most interesting days of this series,[340] stopping after certain of them to point out parallels and peculiarities.

1. Experience of November 17, 1554.

“On (Saturday) November 17, 1554” (Battista was now fifty-seven and a half years old),[347] “having, before Holy Communion, a great desire to die to all things, I prayed with all my heart that God, in the most perfect manner possible, would slay me and unite me with Himself. And in so doing I renounced into His hands all myself and everything existing under heaven, whilst electing God anew as my only Love, my only Solace, my only Comfort, and my All. And I refused to accept every consolation arising from such interiorness, however holy the latter might be, except inasmuch as the consolation arises whilst the interior is distinctly occupied with God, and does not turn its gaze upon itself or upon any (other) belovèd object. Even if I could enjoy all this, quite justly, till the day of judgment, I renounce it all. Nothing pleases me, except my God. And if I were assured, which God forbid, of going (to abide) under Lucifer, still would I will, neither more nor less than my God alone. And it would be grievous to me to embrace, even for one single hour, anything else but Him.—After this Communion I remained with a most intense impression of renouncing, with regard to all things and to all moments, all myself and every other thing that is lower than Thee; and with a determination to keep Forty Days of silence, depriving myself during them, as far as my own will and inclination went, even of such reasoning as turned on religious subjects.—And acting thus, by means of Thy grace alone, I arrived, in my inner heart, at having no other actions left, except those of adoring Thee and praying for all men. Whence it happened that I experienced the most quiet and consoling week that, possibly, I have ever had, up to this hour, in all my life.”

It is clear that even the first part of this week’s experience was not written down later than at the end of that week; indeed it reads more as if written down on at least two, and perhaps three, occasions. We have here many close parallels to Catherine: to her exclamation of “God is my Being … my Delight”; to the Divine Voice heard by her, “I do not wish thee henceforth to turn thine eyes to right or left”; to the question asked, and the interior answer heard, by her, as to “love and union not being able to exist without a great contentment of soul”; to her assertions that “the attribution to her own separate self of even one single meritorious act, would be to her as though a Hell,” and that “she would rather remain in eternal condemnation than be saved by such an act of the separate self”; to her Love saying within her, “that He wanted her to keep the Forty Days in His Company in the Desert”; and to her declaration that she could not pray for Vernazza and his fellow-disciples separately, but could only “present them” collectively “in His presence.” And in Battista’s phrase of “going under Lucifer,” we have again, if we take it together with the renunciation of “all things lower than God,” an illustration of those sayings of Catherine which I have grouped under the special category of “up” and “above.”[341]


And note, in Battista’s record, how the contradiction, which appears between her affirmation of having love for God alone, and the admission that she loved herself and other things (since she is determined not to let her mental gaze rest upon these latter beloved objects), is more apparent than real. For the former love is the direct and central object of her fully deliberate and free endeavours; the latter is instinctive, continuous, inevitable, but, inasmuch as it now still remains actively willed at all, it is but the consequential and peripheral object of that willing. As in all deep religion there is here an heroic willing at work to effect a genuine displacement of the centre and object of interest; the system from being instinctively man-centred, becomes a freely willed God-centredness.

2. Experience of November 25, 1554.

“On Sunday” (November 25), “the Feast of St. Catherine” (Virgin Martyr of Alexandria) “was being celebrated. And I communicated with new emotion. And when I received the Host, I willed Thee, my God, alone; renouncing all the rest into Thy hands: I but desired to die and unite myself with Thee. And I felt within me those colloquies of Thine own extreme love; and Thou didst say unto me, O my Joy, ‘The thing that thou seekest is (already) produced eternally in My Divine Mind. Thou desirest to feed on mutability, and I desire to feed thee on eternity.’ And I do not remember in what connection Thou didst say,‘ Ego ero merces tua magna nimis’ (Gen. xv, 1).”

Here, on her God-mother’s Saint’s day, we find that act of pure love at the moment of Holy Communion so dear to Catherine also; and we get here, as in the previous group (but here, even on occasion of the Holy Eucharist), prayer and aspiration directed to God pure and simple, or to God conceived as Love and Joy, precisely as in the Fiesca’s ordinary practice.[342] And the inner voice, if it says deeply mystical things, also directly quotes Scripture in Latin, whilst the scrupulous care of Battista, in registering her oblivion of the precise context in which this quotation appeared, is interestingly characteristic of her nature and experience.

3. Experience of December (9?), 1554.

“On Sunday” (December 9?)[349] “I communicated; and I experienced within myself the most tender colloquies of Thy Majesty, which said to me, ‘The time will come when thou must be so occupied with Me—with My Divinity, My Infinity, My Glory—that, even if thou shouldst so wish, thou wouldest be unable to break off this preoccupation. I have elected thee from amongst thousands. I want to make thee My very Self.’ … Then Thou saidst unto me, ‘I do not want thee to merit, but to return the love which I ever bear thee.’”[343]

Here we have parallels to Catherine’s practice and declarations in Battista’s ever-growing occupation with God; in her, at first sight, strongly pantheistic, because apparently substantial, identification of her true self with God; and in her doctrine that God desires not that we should merit, but that we should, by purely loving, make Him a return of His own pure love. And, as but an apparent contrast, note how here it is God Who chooses out Battista’s soul from amongst thousands; whilst, with Catherine, we have herself instinctively choosing out God, even were He, per impossible, like to one of the whole Court of Heaven (the angels, “whose number is thousands of thousands,” Apoc. v, 11). For the difference consists, at bottom, only in the fact that each dwells, in these special instances, upon the other half of the complete mystic circle of the divine and human intercourse. The same complete scheme is, in reality, experienced and proclaimed both by the widow and the nun,—indeed God’s prevenient election of the soul, and His special attention to it, is even more strongly emphasized by the older woman: “It appears to me, indeed, that God has no other business than myself.”[344]

Remark, too, how here again an unmistakable text of Scripture appears as part of the words heard by Battista. But since it is a composite quotation—“I have elected thee,” coming from Isa. xliii, 10; xliv, 1; xlviii, 10; and “elected among thousands,” coming from Cant. v, 10, where the elect is (as with Catherine) the Bridegroom, and not (as with Battista) the Bride,—therefore, no doubt, it does not appear in Latin or with any reference.

4. Experience of December 16, 1554.

“The following Sunday” (December 16)[350] “I communicated with a greater desire for Union than usual, and with a more detailed sight concerning it. And after this communion I prayed in such a state of Union,—without any means either of thoughts or of anything else that could be made to intervene, remaining naked in Thy bosom as I have been from eternity. And whilst praying thus, I felt that certain words were being spoken within me, the gist of which (la sentenza) seems to me to have been, that my prayer did not reach to the reality of Union itself. So that there then came to my mind that which Paul says, Rom. viii (26), that ‘we do not know how to pray sicut oportet.’ And Thou saidst to me that, above all understanding of mine, Thou wouldest produce the effect; indeed the thing is already effected continuously in Thy divine mind. And Thou saidst to me, my only Love, that Thou didst will to make me Thyself; and that Thou wast all mine, with all that Thou hadst and with all Paradise; and that I was all Thine. That I should leave all, or rather the nothing; and that (then) Thou wouldst give me the all. And that Thou hadst given me this name—at which words I heard within me ‘dedi te in lucem gentium’—not without good reason. And it seemed then, as though I had an inclination for nothing except the purest Union, without any means, in accordance with that detailed sight which Thou hadst given me. So then I said to Thee: ‘These other things, give them to whom Thou wilt; give me but this most pure Union with Thee, free from every means.’”

Here we again have numerous parallels. Battista’s state of Union, without any means that could be made to intervene, compares readily with Catherine’s declaration: “I cannot abide to see that word ‘for’ (God) and ‘in’ (God), since they denote to my mind something that can stand between God and myself.” Battista’s description, “remaining naked in Thy bosom, as I have been from eternity,” resembles Catherine’s sayings: “True love wills to stand naked. This naked love sees the truth”; “the soul in that state of cleanness in which it was created”; “the angels and man, when disobedient, were clothed in sin”; and the words heard by her: “I want thee naked, naked.” The answer granted to Battista, that “possessing her Lord, her only Love, she possessed at the same time all Paradise,” recalls Catherine’s declaration that “if of what her heart felt but one drop were to fall into Hell, Hell itself would become Eternal Life.” And Battista’s prayer, “these other things, give them to whom Thou wilt; give me but this most pure Union with Thee,” is substantially like[351] Catherine’s answer to the Friar, “that you should merit more than myself—I leave that in your hands; but that I cannot love Him as much as you, is a thing that you will never by any means get me to understand.”[345]

And we get here two further interesting particularities as to such “locutions.” In this case Battista only “feels,” at the time of their occurrence, that certain words are being spoken within her (once before she has used that remarkably general term, instead of the more obvious and specific “hear”); and she possesses, on coming (evidently soon after) to write them down, a but approximate remembrance of them, and a certainty as to their substance alone. And then we find here the interesting case of two different simultaneous locutions: one voice referring to the name which our Lord had given her, and another, at this point, quoting the text, “dedi te in lucem gentium.” The text, in this full form, occurs in Isaiah xlix, 6, and is there spoken by God to His servant Israel, v. 3; but part of it, expanded to “a light to the revelation of the Gentiles,” is, in Luke ii, 32, quoted by Simeon of Christ. We thus, in this place, get three different, yet simultaneous, levels of consciousness within Battista’s soul: her own (more or less ordinary) consciousness and “voice” recognized by her own self, as such; another, deeper, extraordinary consciousness and “voice” proceeding, according to her apprehension, from our Lord’s presence and action within her; and finally a third, deepest consciousness and “voice” taken, I presume, to be directly communicated by God Himself. It is to be noted that, though interior “locutions” seem to have been fairly frequent with Catherine, there is no case on record in her life of more than two levels of consciousness, two “voices,” at one and the same moment, her own and Love’s.

5. Experience of December 23, 24, 1554.

“The following night” (December 23 to 24),[352] “I woke up and found impressed upon my mind (the words): ‘comedite bonum,’ Isaiah lv (2). And this impression remained with me (throughout the day),—an impression of eating God, and of inviting all others to the same Divine food.—In the evening,—it was the Vigil of the Nativity,—I had a sight of how, God Himself having taken our nature, and having done so as the Infinite one, the very greatest virtue must be diffused throughout this same (human) nature: a truth which he knew who says: ‘Plena est omnis terra gloria eius,’ Isaiah vi (3). If by one man sin entered into all, by a God-man how much good has not entered into us all? Romans v, 15-19. If God has made Himself Flesh, what virtue is there which He has denied to this same flesh?—And in the night of the Nativity, after Matins, I had a sight of that extreme, eternal and incomprehensible Love, which, unable to abide within Itself, had become ecstatic into the thing It loved, and had indeed, by means of Its Almighty power, become that very thing. Whence it is that, seeing Thy Majesty gone forth out of Thyself and become me, I was determined, in virtue of that self-same love, to go forth from myself and, in every manner, make myself into Thy very Self. And Thou, my God, didst say that Thou hadst descended to the same degree as that to which Thou wantedst man to ascend.”

Here Battista’s “impression of eating God, and of inviting all others to the same Divine food” is substantially identical with Catherine’s doctrine as to the “One Bread, God,” and “all creatures hungering for this One Bread.” Battista’s sight of “God being diffused throughout human nature,” is analogous to Catherine’s teaching as to no creature existing that does not, in some measure, participate in His goodness,—although, with characteristic difference, Battista dwells on the ennoblement of that nature through the Incarnation of God, and Catherine insists upon the nobility contemporaneous with, and intrinsic to, Man’s original Creation. And Battista’s determination to go forth from herself is identical, in substance, with all the sayings of Catherine which I have grouped under the “outside” “outwards” category.[346]

And note how, in this group, Battista mentally sees, instead of interiorly hearing, the truth of the Incarnation of the Infinite, and of the consequent ennobling of our whole nature; how this sight then suggests to her mind a definite text (recognized by herself as such), and then an amplification of another text (not perhaps identified by her as such at all): and how the transition from that sight to these texts is so smooth and rapid that it is practically impossible to mark off precisely where she held the simply given experience to end, and her own action and comment to begin. The fact of the matter no doubt is that, in both cases, though very possibly in different[353] degrees, there was divine and human action indistinguishably co-operant throughout.

And mark again how her “vista”—“of that extreme, eternal, and incomprehensible Love which had become ‘ecstatic’ into the Thing it loves”; her consequent determination to “go forth from herself,” and the voice which told her that He wanted her “to ascend in the same degree as He had descended”: all goes back, for its literary suggestion, to the Dionysian “Divine Names”: “Divine Love is ecstatic, not permitting any to be lovers of themselves but of those beloved. The very Author of all things, through an overflow of His loving goodness, becomes ‘out of Himself,’ and is led down from the eminence above all, to being in all.” “He is at once moving and conducting Power to Himself, as it were a sort of everlasting circle.” “Let us restore all loves back to the one and enfolded Love and Father of them all.”[347] Not the less truly did Battista’s mental lights and voluntary determinations come from God, because they consisted, for the most part, in a vivid realization and acceptation, in and for her particular case, on this Christmas night in 1554, of spiritual facts and truths which had been slowly and successively revealed, experienced, and formulated as far back as the Hebrew Prophets and the Greek Plato, and above all by our Lord, and in St. Paul’s writings and the Gospel of St. John. These truths were none the less hers, because they had been successively experienced and proclaimed, so long ago by others; and their suggestion and realization to and in her, were as truly the work of God in her own case as they were in that of those others.

6. Experience of December 27, 1554.

“This morning” (December 27),[354] “which is the Feast of the Evangelist John, when I awoke, I suddenly heard the words being spoken within my mind: ‘To-day I am determined to divide thy soul from thy spirit’—and later on, when the Host was being elevated at Mass and I was praying about this matter, I had a sight or Thou didst say unto me—I cannot remember precisely which it was,—enough, it appeared to me that as, when the soul is divided from the body, the soul, in so far as immortal, flies to its destined place, and the entire body remains dead: so also, when the almighty hand of God makes a similar division of the soul from the spirit, the former, the animal part (of man), remains dead, but the spirit, (truly) free (at last), flies to its natural place, which is God, the Living Fountain.”

Here we are at once reminded of Catherine’s experience of “Love once speaking within her mind”; of her sayings which dwell on the separation of the soul from the body, and on the flight of the spirit to its natural place, God; and of her sight of “the living Fountain” of Goodness.[348] But Battista’s psychology is entirely clear and self-consistent, as to the precise extension of, and the precise distinction between, the terms “spirito” and “anima”; whereas, in the authentic sayings of Catherine, “anima” is used sometimes as inclusive of, and sometimes in contradistinction to, “spirito.” We shall see how it is only the later systematizing Dialogo-writer who brings perfect consistency, and a scheme identical with Battista’s, into Catherine’s terminology. Yet in Catherine’s image of the assimilation of bread by man, in illustration of the assimilation of man’s nature by God, we find Battista’s two stages of the divisional process. For there the body is first purified up to the actual level of the soul, and then the soul itself is purified perfectly, its animal part being eliminated or dominated by the spiritual part.[349]

It is interesting, too, to note how Battista cannot decide here whether this interpretation of the short sentence she had heard was mentally seen or interiorly heard by her; indeed, she is sure only that, whilst she was praying to understand the meaning of that sentence, the meaning thus sought appeared to her, by some means or other, to be so and so. It is then abundantly clear from this, that the difference between an interior sight and an interior voice, and again between either of these and the admittedly normal workings of her own mind, was, at times, so delicate, as either not to be clear to her own consciousness, even at the very time of the experience; or, at least, to fade away from her memory before she came to chronicle the experience.

7. Experience of January 6, 1555.

“On the Feast of the Epiphany” (January 6, 1555),[355] “before Communion, I felt ineffable and most tender colloquies, and greatly I rejoiced because of them. For I had caused Masses to be said and prayers to be prayed, by various persons during many days, with the intention that, if these colloquies were not from Thee, I might no more experience them; but that, if they were Thine, they might be produced within me more clearly and more efficaciously. And seeing that I now felt them more than usual, and in a more admirable manner, I had and have a firm hope that they were Thine. Whence it happened that (having, on that same blessed day, to go up to receive Thee in the Sacrament), I felt Thy Majesty more than once calling me within me, ‘Come, since I want to devour thee entirely.’ … It seems to me that ‘entirely’ was one of the words, but I have no firm remembrance of this. But I know well that Thou saidst several times, ‘Come, since I want to devour thee.’ … To me it seemed that I merited rather to go under Lucifer, than into the Infinite Light (Luce).”

We get here a number of interesting parallels and contrasts to Catherine’s teaching and practice. God’s devouring of the soul; God pictured as Light; souls conceived as higher up or lower down in space, according to their degree of goodness or of badness; even the pleasure in a play upon words: all this finds its close counterpart in Catherine.[350] But far more important is the difference in the subject-matter of their scruples and in their respective attitudes towards psychically unusual experiences. In Catherine’s case there is no record of anxieties concerning other things than her degree of detachment and her administrative responsibilities; indeed her whole practice and teaching, continuously bent as they were upon the ethico-spiritual truth and upon the practical application of her unusual experiences, make it morally certain that her anxieties never turned upon these forms and means themselves. She was, as it were, too much occupied with the content of the cup, ever to be actively perplexed as to the cup itself. Battista, on the contrary, seems to have been quite free from scruples of Catherine’s melancholic type; but did not, evidently, always soar as highly as her God-mother above all anxious occupation with the form of her experiences. And, indeed, if, in this instance, it was evidently the form of her experiences which perplexed her, it was also the renewed and heightened experience of this peculiar form which reassured her.—Yet the very fact of such a perplexity, and again the moderation with which, even at the end of it all, she but “hopes that it all comes from God,” shows a healthy reluctance to trust too readily or too much to such tests and indications.[356] It would probably not be unfair to put her attitude towards such things midway between Don Marabotto’s readiness of belief and Catherine’s soaring ethico-spiritual transcendence.

It is noticeable too that, if the inner voice is more distinct than before, Battista’s anxious care for accuracy is also, if possible, more on the alert than ever: witness her remarks as to the word “all.”

8. Experience of the Second Sunday in Lent, 1555.

“On the second Sunday (in Lent), having communicated, I felt Thine ineffable reasonings; but, since I did not write them down at once, I do not any more venture to write them down, having in great part lost the memory of them. But this I remember, that the words were like those which the Bridegroom says to the Bride in the Canticle (of Canticles).”

Here the difference between this form of apprehension and that of ordinary vivid thinking is so faintly distinct, that she can only declare that she “felt” (without deciding between hearing, seeing, or any other of the more definite senses) “reasonings” (without being sure of their “explicitation” in words or images); and she herself recognized at the time, and later on remembers that contemporary recognition of, their likeness to the texts of the Canticle of Canticles. It is evidently the profound reluctance, cultivated by her for half a century or more, to treat the deepest acts of the soul as other than directly and exclusively the acts of God in that soul, which makes her not see and admit here the large co-operation of her own mind.

Remark also a characteristic difference from Catherine, in that the latter’s teaching is, we have already seen, entirely free from any influences characteristic of the Song of Songs.

9. Experience of Ascension Day, 1555.

“On the Lord’s Ascension Day Thou didst say to me, O my Love, that, up to this point, I had walked by Faith, but that now Thou wast determined to give me direct assurance (certezza); and that there was no occasion for me to go on writing down Thy words, since I should read them in my own experience. And on my asking what Thou wouldst operate within me, Thou didst affirm to me that I should ever possess Thee in my heart.”—[357]“Another time I felt that I was being told: ‘I generate My Son, having an infinite Cognition of Myself; similarly I generate thee, by infusing into thee that same cognition. But (this) My Cognition is without measure; and thine shall be according to that measure which I shall, by My goodness, be impelled to give thee, in suchwise that of this cognition and of thine intellect there shall be effected one identical thing; so that I shall place My Word, My Concept, which I possess within Myself, in thee, according to the capacity for it which I shall deign to give thee; and so that, again, thy spirit shall be a son within My Son, or rather one only son with Him: and thus will I have generated thee.’ Hence, O Lord, according to this Thy showing, those are generated by Thee, who, united by grace to Thy Majesty, repose in Thy Paternal Bosom, together with Thine only Begotten. But He is by nature one sole substance with Thee—He whom Thou art ever ineffably generating; and we are united with Thee, through reposing in Thy bosom by simple grace and by a singular privilege of Thy love; and in so far as we thus abide there in Thee, Thou generatest us in more and more light and ardour. Hence then Thou generatest him who abides in Thee.”

We have here, in the last locution of this series, the most complicated and seemingly original of them all. Yet here we can still find parallels to Catherine: in the addressing of God as “my Love”; in the fact that the locution proceeds from, and its interpretation is submitted, not to our Lord, but to God, to Him who indeed generates His Son without measure and directly, yet all other souls also, though in measure and by and through His Son; and in the declaration that now she should have a kind of direct assurance in lieu of Faith.[351]

And here especially we can trace the large Neo-Platonist (Dionysian) element in Battista’s Mysticism. There is the first, perfect circle, God’s perfect cognition of Himself, a cognition which produces a fresh (though co-eternal) centre of cognition, which latter in return perfectly cognizes Him who perfectly cognized it. And then there is a derivative imperfect circle—since that perfect cognizedness and cognizing, which is God’s Son, can only be imperfectly imparted to the souls of creatures: yet again we have a circle for the very thing which is cognized by God is, in this instance also, the same which cognizes Him. And lastly, this distance between the perfect and imperfect circles is, as far as possible, overcome by an attempted and momentary identification of the perfectly[358] cognized and cognizing circle, Christ, with the perfectly cognized but imperfectly cognizing one, every human soul in its potentiality and divinely intended end.

And this large Platonist scheme of a progression of Ideas appears here coloured and Christianized, by means of four scriptural texts in particular: Ps. cix, 31, “in the brightness (splendours) of the saints, from the womb, before the day star (Lucifer) I begot thee”; John i, 18, “the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father”; xiii, 23, “there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples whom Jesus loved”; and Luke xvi, 23, “the rich man beheld Abraham from afar, and Lazarus in his bosom.” The first two passages give her the eternal and continuous generation and abiding of the Son by and in the Father; and the last two suggest a similar abiding and (interpretatively) generation, together with that Son, of the faithful soul, in and by God, continuously and for ever.

Note, too, the double meaning, so characteristic of mystical utterances, contained in the sentence, “I generate My Son, having an infinite Cognition of Myself”; which indicates both the mode of generation (“by means of an infinite cognition”), and the nature of the generated one (“who has an infinite cognition”). And by this literary device, the intense close-knitness of the perfect circle is strikingly adumbrated.

And remark how Battista finishes up this soaring flight by an interpretation of a perfect sobriety. Indeed it is this moderation and good sense along with so immense an Idealism and intense Interiority which, together, constitute her noblest characteristic and should make us overlook the comparative absence of spontaneous charm and tender freshness, which cannot but strike us if we allow ourselves to contrast the piety of Battista with that of Catherine.

IV. Some further Letters of Battista, 1575 to 1581.

Before the experiences and confidences of an almost painful privacy and emotional intensity, which require, in part, a considerable amount of patient interpretation from us, if they are to move and touch us, we found and dwelt upon a moral attitude and a document full of immediately understandable heroism and virile common-sense: the scene with her father before his death-ride, and the letter to Dottore Moro. And, somewhat similarly, three further documents succeed to these[359] intermediate confidences, documents full of love and esteem for the externally ordinary vocation of the vast majority of us all, of a large undaunted outlook, and of a shrewd and persevering public spirit. The apparent mental contraction and subjectivity we have just passed through with her is but the recollective movement, the, as it were, drawing itself together for the spring of action on the part of an already large and expansive soul, and leads on and out to fresh and still larger horizons, and, indeed, effects them.

1. Letter to Donna Anguisola, 1575.

We have first a letter of June 10, 1575 (Battista was now seventy-eight years of age, and had been a Religious for sixty-five years) addressed to a widowed noblewoman with young children—the Illustrious Lady Andronica Anguisola.[352] The reader will note the transition, evidently quite natural and spontaneous in the writer, from a soaring Mysticism, full of Pauline, Joannine, and Dionysian forms, and of deep, personally experimental content, to the most practical and shrewd, wisely unflinching, homely heroism. There are few documents, I think, which show with an equal impressiveness how startlingly direct and immediate can be and is the application of such, apparently, purely transcendental, serene contemplations and affections to the struggling, clamorous world of our human passions, circumstances, difficulties, and duties: and how only that transcendence and this immanence, taken and working thus together, give to the soul a height without inflation, and a concrete particularity without pettiness. I shall break up the long letter into three sections, omitting only two, relatively commonplace, passages in the middle and at the end; and shall again point out certain parallels and peculiarities at the end of each section.

(1) Opening of the letter.

“Most Honoured Madam in the Crucified,


“‘I have come to place (cast) fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be enkindled’ (Luke xii, 49). By these most divine words we can understand, in part, to what a supreme degree such a most happy fire is of importance, since the Eternal Word came down from Heaven to kindle it in His so dearly-loved rational earth. And this great effect could not but follow, since the Paternal goodness willed to communicate to our misery the ardour which He possesses eternally in His Heart. And what else is this communication to us of His infinite love than the planting within our minds of His own intrinsic, incomprehensible delights? His Majesty, in His infinite courtesy, takes His delights in abiding with the children of men (Prov. viii, 31). But He desires that these delights should proceed from both sides, so that, as He takes these delights in us, by His own intrinsic natural goodness, He similarly wills that we, by means of that same goodness which is poured into us by that fire which Christ places upon our earth,—as Paul demonstrates when he says (Rom. v, 5), ‘The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us,’—He wills, I say, that, set in motion by the immense potency of this infused fire, we should place, in return, all our delights in His Majesty; and then, to speak according to our human fashion, His unmeasured love attains to its intent. In this correspondence lie hidden away delights beyond all comprehension, considering that it is His own goodness that comes down (into us), as He demonstrates when he says, ‘We will come to him, and will make our abode with him’ (John xiv, 23); and that He raises us up beyond all measure in suchwise that, of the Increate Heart and of the created one, there is made, by the operation of Him who says, ‘The Father who is in Me, worketh’ (John x, 38; v, 17), a single most secret and inestimable union.”

Here, again, we find close parallels to Catherine in “His own intrinsic incomprehensible delights,” “His infinite courtesy,” “the immense virtue of this infused fire,” and “to speak according to our human fashion.” And the whole general conception of a mutual and corresponding action and circle between God and the soul, the whole movement beginning in and by God, and leading back and ending in Him, is here, once more, the common property of Battista and her God-mother.[353] Yet “The Crucified,” with which the whole letter opens, and “His Heart,” the “Increate Heart,” applied directly to God Himself, are expressions we should seek in vain in Catherine. The historical Christ, and a most legitimate anthropomorphism, find here a place, indeed a prominence, which they have not there. And note the sobriety with which Battista insists on the analogical character of all this speculation, for she “speaks” only “according to our human fashion”; and the allegorizing involved in the[361] “His dearly-loved rational earth,” the earth that souls dwell on having here become simply identical with those souls themselves. And especially remark the mystically characteristic doubleness of meaning, and the conception of the substantiality of the divine indwelling, involved in the phrase, “His own intrinsic, incomprehensible delights.” For this phrase means both “the delight which, for our minds, is intrinsically bound up with the thought of God,” and the “delight which He himself takes in His indwelling whilst abiding within us”; and the latter idea involves a belief in the soul’s delight in Him being but a sympathetic echo and answer to His delight in this His own indwelling, a delight thus actually in operation within the human soul.

Mark, too, how her opening her letter with a formally announced text is but an instance of her life-long literary form of composition—the homily; how saturated is the whole with (evidently first-hand) scriptural meditation; and how wise and like her own father is her treatment of this soul, so near to delusion in the very intemperance of her search after perfection. A warning note of a claim about to be made upon her correspondent’s effective self-immolation has been struck, from the first, by the words, “the Crucified”; and yet this note is first followed by a paragraph sufficiently soaring to satisfy even the most lofty moods of the Signora Andronica.

(2) Central part of the letter.

“I have taken up my pen from a desire that you may be wholly and entirely devoted to the Lord, with a whole-hearted abandonment. I do not mean that you should abandon the care of your children: on the contrary, I wish that you may give the greatest care to them, both within and without. For the within, by desiring heart-wholly that they may be joined (cleave) to God, with all they are; and for the without, by helping them studiously to avoid everything that leads to sin.” She then gives the examples of SS. Felicitas and Monica, and of St. Louis of France, and proceeds: “Now note, dear Madam, how great is the fruit of good government on the part of parents. Indeed, according to the little light which God deigns to give me, this alone appears to me necessary—that your Ladyship should observe the counsel of St. Paul, where he says (Eph. iv, 1) ‘that we should walk worthily in the vocation in which we are called.’ Now you are called to the government of your children. Hence I pray you to study how to act, that you may be able to render a good account[362] of it to God. You will remember how our Christ, on the point of going to His death, renders an account to His eternal Father concerning those whom His Father had given into His charge, saying, ‘of them whom Thou hast given Me (in charge), I have not lost one’ (John xviii, 9).

“Consider, my very dear Friend, how that our great God, being infinitely perfect, or, in better terms, perfection itself, we cannot either add to or detract from His glory even the slightest point, as the Prophet saw who said (Ps. ci, 13), ‘Thou, O Lord, art ever the same’ (endurest for ever), ‘unchangeable and invariable.’ All that we can do for Him, is to come in aid to His dear images, to His beloved children, as the Lord shows in Matt, xxv, 40, ‘that which ye shall do unto one of these My least, ye shall have done it unto Me.’—I know well that you desire to withdraw yourself from all the cares of the world, in order to be able to occupy yourself entirely with God. But do you not know that ‘Charity seeketh not the things that are her own’ (1 Cor. xiii, 5), that is, her own utility? That desire which your Ladyship has for herself, let her have it equally for her children. Are we not obliged to love our neighbours as ourselves? (Matt. xix, 19). And hence, how much more our children! That step in perfection, of entirely abandoning all things, your Ladyship cannot take, without great damage to your neighbour,—damage, I mean, to souls. Remember how full of perils is the period of youth; I beg of you, with all possible insistence, for God’s sake, to have a greater care of these young souls than of yourself, since the necessity is greater.”

Here, again, there are parallels to the God-mother: in the love of that intensely unifying term, “si accostino,” “cleave to,” “be joined to,” of St. Paul, so dear to Catherine also; in the love of all souls, as God’s dear images, but specially of those bound to us by blood, so marked in Catherine’s testamentary dispositions, as distinct from the descriptions, possibly even from the surface-appearances, of her last nine years; and in the greater care to be given to others than to our own selves, when their necessity is greater than ours, so heroically practised by Catherine in the case of the Plague.[354] The chief difference, here again, is the prominence given by Battista to the Historic Christ, by her quotation of the words of St. Matthew,—words which, though so obviously applicable to[363] Catherine’s work and duties, nowhere occur throughout Catherine’s own contemplations or discourses.—Note again the ambiguity of the “within and without” in connection with the care to be bestowed, since the words are intended to cover respectively both Donna Anguisola’s intention and exterior action, and her children’s interior dispositions and visible acts.

(3) Conclusion of the letter.

“But pray indeed to His Majesty that He may give you grace so great as to enable you to abandon all things interiorly. Here is the point in which all perfection consists. And I will pray to Him for this, in union with yourself. I most certainly desire, for my part, that your generous heart may have no other delight but God. And do you convert that human consolation which men are wont to take in their children, into a great desire that they may cleave to God; that they may not offend Him, and that they may bear His Majesty in their hearts. And when those things have been actually effected, do you then take the greatest delight in them, whilst mortifying that merely human pleasure which men take in the mutable prosperity of their children, in the most pleasing consolation which arises from their company, and in such-like things. And, from such a course of action, various advantages will follow. First, you will, I think, be thus doing what is most pleasing to God; next, you will be most useful to your neighbour; and lastly, your Ladyship will have carried off a great victory over your own self.”

Here we can trace two close parallels to special points of Catherine’s practice and teaching. In the doctrine that the point of all perfection consists in the interior abandonment of all things, we get but a re-statement of Catherine’s teaching as to God’s love being practicable everywhere; and in the advice to practise interior mortification in the matter of resting in the consolation of her children’s company, we have not only a parallel to Catherine’s early and transitory convert practice, but also an application to human intercourse of Catherine’s, and indeed also Battista’s, continuous and ever-growing practice of detachment from sensible consolations in the soul’s intercourse with God.[355]

We can hardly doubt that this letter was as effectual in[364] keeping Donna Anguisola within the limits of family duties, as the letter of forty-six years before had been in bringing back Dottore Moro to the world-wide spiritual family of the Ancient Church.

2. Letter to Padre Collino, 1576.

And we have next a letter, written in 1576, when she was seventy-nine, to that Father Serafino Collino at Cremona, to whom, five years later, she was to write the truly classical account of her father, which has been the main source of our study of that heroic figure.

And indeed already in this letter she preludes, as it were, to that outburst of filial praise, by first dwelling here upon the effects of her father’s life as they were maturing visibly around her. “A very spiritual, wise, and noble person,” writes Battista, “has been visiting me; and in the course of talk she asked me, ‘Well, and what did you think of the great miracles that God has been working during these times of acute conflict, in this our city—miracles such as no one ever heard of throughout the course of ancient Roman history or in connection with any other warfare?’ And I, knowing well that this person has three Doctors of Theology living continuously in her house, guessed that these men must have carefully scrutinized and examined the whole matter. So I simply asked, ‘What miracles do you mean?’ And she answered me, ‘The city has been for so long a time in arms, a prey to the good and to the wicked, to the wise and to the mad, and has been affording the greatest possible opportunity for acts contrary to justice. And yet, throughout the city within the walls, no one has ever been offended,—no man, in his person; no woman, in her honour; and no man or woman, in their possessions.’”

And then Battista comments on her visitor’s declaration.[365] “As to their persons, all men went about in the city with swords drawn and erect, and spoke injurious words to those of the opposite party. And it really seems as though their hands were tied, for they used their tongues indeed but not their hands; not one drop of blood has been spilt. Within the city two homicides were, no doubt, committed during this time, because of a difference on a point of honour; but none on account of party spirit. Similarly outside of Genoa the son of Signer Antonio d’Oria was killed—not by the opposite party, but by another nobleman like himself,—they had come to words. As to female honour, the women went and came to visit each other, and frequented Mass, whether they belonged to one party or to the other; and the greater number of gentlewomen went out of Genoa, accompanied by their daughters, passing through the very midst of the city, and going down the wharf to get on board their boats; and yet never was any discourtesy shown to any one of them. Similarly, with regard to possessions: quantities of these were sent out of Genoa; great masses of them were deposited in the Monasteries—and yet never even a trifle was ever taken. On this latter point we of this Convent can bear direct witness. For although so much property and money was brought to the Monastery delle Grazie, that it became difficult to move about the house because of the quantity of cases and stray boxes deposited there, nevertheless not even to the poor carriers who brought them was the slightest violence done, although they had to pass through all those drawn and raised swords; nor was a single word said to us Nuns, who appeared in the gateway to receive the goods.”[356]

Now the well-informed lawyer, Professore Morro, thinks that all this was the direct result of Ettore Vernazza’s far-sighted and devoted philanthropy. And he is no doubt right. For we still possess the entries, in the Cartulary of St. George, of the great works carried out by that powerful Banking Body, in conformity with and by means of Ettore’s directions and moneys, amongst Genoa’s teeming poor and sick and ignorant, in the years 1531 and 1553.[357] Indeed even the printed documents bring the administration of this great, ever-growing fund down to the year 1708.

And the points that here concern the character of Battista are this her omnipresent and yet bashful pride in her large-hearted father; her virile joy in the public good; her immensely sane and direct tastes as to the city’s improvement; and her glad finding of a miracle in things thus readily verifiable, universal, interior, and yet profoundly operative in the visible work-a-day life of man. There is something strikingly modern in this severely social, and already more or less statistical, way of testing improvement, an improvement which is found here, not in any vaguely assumed increase of impulsive or perfunctory almsgiving in the one class, or of dependence and passivity in the other, but in the closely scrutinized proofs of a remarkable growth in general self-respect, self-maintenance,[366] public spirit and sense of social interdependence, on the part of all parties and classes.

And in the daughter’s judgment concerning all this it is again easy to trace a likeness to her father, with his careful regulations for a great Register of the Poor, and his provisions for harbour-works and the embellishment of the city. But Catherine’s spirit is also present, with its emphatic insistence upon God’s love as practicable everywhere, and upon truth as, of its very nature, public-spirited and meant for all.[358]

3. Second letter to Padre Collino, 1581.

And five years later still (she was now eighty-four) Battista writes her long account of her father’s life, which we studied in connection with him, but which would well deserve a detailed analysis from the standpoint of the daughter’s dispositions, so keen and large, so tender, true and immensely operative, long after most men have died, or are living on in a selfish second childhood.

V. Battista’s Death, 1587.

And then at last, six years afterwards, at four o’clock in the afternoon of May 9, 1587, Pope Sixtus V being Pope and Mary Stuart having but six months still to live, Battista died in her Convent, fully three generations old. During her last years she had been allowed to communicate daily, and had thus, at the end, added one more trait of resemblance to her God-mother, who, as we know, had, for some thirty-five years of her life, found her greatest strength and consolation in this the simplest, most central and deepest of all the Christian devotions and means of Grace.[359]

One hundred and forty years had now passed since the[367] birth of Catherine, and seventy-seven since her death. It is indeed time that we should, having accumulated so much material, proceed in the next volume to an examination and exposition of the underlying spiritual facts and laws specially brought home to us by the group of lives we have been studying, and of which the central figure was that, for us, largely elusive but immensely suggestive, many-sided and yet rarely beautiful, soul and influence, which the Church venerates as St. Catherine of Genoa.


But let us first conclude this volume by attempting an answer, however preliminary and general, to the definite question with which it opened out.

I. The Question.

We asked there, how any deeper, will-moving intercommunication can even be possible amongst men? For the mere possession of, and appeal to, the elementary forms of abstract thinking, which seem to be our only certain common material, instrument and measure of persuasion, appear never, of themselves, to move the will, or indeed the feelings; whereas all that is endowed with such directly will-moving power appears, not only as specifically concrete and as hopelessly boxed up within the four corners of our mutually exclusive individualities, but also as vitiated, even for each several owner, by an essentially fitful and fanciful subjectivity.

II. The Answer.

Now I think that even the survey of the three great lives, and of those four minor ones, which has been just attempted, forcibly suggests, both positively and negatively, at least the general outlines of the true answer to this pressing question.


1. Only a life sufficiently large and alive to take up and retain, within its own experimental range, at least some of the poignant question and conflict, as well as of the peace-bringing solution and calm: hence a life dramatic with a humble and homely heroism which, in rightful contact with and in rightful renunciation of the Particular and Fleeting, ever seeks and finds the Omnipresent and Eternal; and which again deepens and incarnates (for its own experience and apprehension and for the stimulation of other souls) this Transcendence in its own thus gradually purified Particular: only such a life can be largely persuasive, at least for us Westerns and in our times.

We would thus have an attempt, ever renewed, ever widening, ever deepening, at the formation of, as it were, a concrete, living, breathing image of the Abiding and the One; of Law, Love, and Duty; of God: an image formed out of the seemingly shifting, shrinking flux, and the apparently shapeless mass of our actual, bewildering human manyfold; our flesh and sweat, and tears and blood, our joy and laughter, our passions and petty revolts, our weariness and isolations. Attend primarily to minimizing or eliminating all such friction and pain; to being clear, materially simple and static, a fixed Thing, rather than vivid, formally unified, and dynamic, a growing Personality: or again, let the friction be so great, or the courage and fidelity so small, as to lead to the break-up of all genuine recollection and harmonization; and, in the former case, such a character or outlook may be considered “safe” or “correct” or “sensible”; and, in the latter, the character and outlook will not be consolidated at all, or will be breaking up: but in neither case will the life be persuasive. For to be truly winning, the soul’s life must become and must keep itself full and true.

2. Now it is simply false that man can, even for his own self alone, hold spiritual reality, even from the first, in a simply passive, purely dependent, entirely automatic and painless fashion; or that he can, even at the last, possess it in a full, continuous and effortless harmony and simultaneousness.

God no doubt holds all Truth and Reality as one great Here and Now, or rather He possesses them entirely outside of space and time; nor can we attribute to Him directly any interior conflict, effort, or suffering. And, again, we ourselves too possess within our minds an element and an apprehension of the Abiding and the Simultaneous; and their rudiments[369] operate within us, if all-diffusively yet most powerfully, from the very first. Indeed the continuous increase in definiteness and influence of that element and of its apprehension here, and the indefinite expansion and continuously conscious possession of this same element hereafter, are respectively the highest aim and fullest achievement of our spiritual life. And finally, the further the soul advances, the more it sees and realizes the profound truth, that all it does and is, is somehow given to it; and hence that, inasmuch as it is permanent at all, it is grounded upon, environed, supported, penetrated and nourished by Him who is its origin and its end. Here all the soul’s actions tend to coalesce to simply being, and this being, in so far as there and then acceptable to the conscience, comes more and more to be felt and considered as the simple effect of the one direct action of God alone.

And yet as to God, some kind and degree of Incarnational doctrine is necessary, and is indeed (in varyingly perfect or imperfect forms) the common property of all higher religion; and Christians have learnt to think the profound thought, of God Himself being in a mysterious closeness to even our most secret perplexities and inarticulate pain.—And by ourselves, poor weaklings, that vast, continuous Simultaneity and Harmony of God can only be more and more nearly approached, if, upon our mostly shadowy, and (when at all clear) our short-lived consciousness of an inchoate simultaneity and harmony of our own, we work an orderly successiveness, and attempt a Melody: an humble, creaturely imitation of the Eternal, Spaceless Creator, under the deliberately accepted conditions and doubly refracting media of time and space. Real temptation, true piercing conflict, heavy darkness, and bewildering perplexity; the constant encountering (as a necessary condition and occasion of all growth) of numberless and multiform remoter risks of failing and of falling: all this forms an essential part of this painful-joyous probation and virile, because necessarily costing and largely gradual, self-constitution of man’s free-willing spirit.

And the place and function, in all this spiritual growth-in-conflict, of Science, both in its most determinist and apparently most anti-spiritual mood, and in its subtler though no less destructive-seeming attitudes, will turn out, we shall find,—now that our generation is getting to know Science’s special scope and implications,—to be of simply irreplaceable value and potency.


And though, in the other life, our earthly pain and temptation are to be no more, we may be sure that, even there, the essential characteristics of our nature will not be reversed. Hence we may be able, later on in this book, to hazard some not all-ungrounded conjecture as to the possible substitute and form in Heaven for what is essentially noble and creaturely in our sufferings and self-renunciations here on earth.

And lastly, though God’s action in all things in general, and in our individual soul in particular, be more and more recognized as all-pervasive in proportion as the soul advances: yet this action will have to be conceived as operating in and through and with our own; as in each case finding, in one sense, its very matter, in another, its very form, in our own free-willings. For Spirit and spirit, God and the creature, are not two material bodies, of which one can only be where the other is not: but, on the contrary, as regards our own spirit, God’s Spirit ever works in closest penetration and stimulation of our own; just as, in return, we cannot find God’s Spirit simply separate from our own spirit within ourselves. Our spirit clothes and expresses His; His Spirit first creates and then sustains and stimulates our own. The two, as regards the inner life of the human soul, rise and sink together. But more as to this too hereafter.

3. We shall indeed, throughout the next volume, have ample opportunities for noting how numerous, definite, far-reaching and at all times operative, even though still but partially unfolded, are the evidences for, and the consequences and applications of, such a fundamental conception, as they are furnished and required by all deeper human life; hence, above all, by Religion; and in Religion, again, specially by its ever largely elusive, yet ever profoundly important, constituent, the Mystical Element.




The following laborious study of the growth and upbuilding of the Life and Legend of St. Catherine is a study worth the making. For this study will bring out fully the test and reasons which have guided the process of documentary selection and estimation adopted throughout the second part of this book, indicating thus the precise degree of reliability pertaining to my narrative. But especially will it furnish a detailed, and peculiarly instructive, example of what, with numberless differences in degree, kind, and importance, can be traced throughout the history of the transmission of the image and influence of great religious personalities and teachers. These continuously recurring phenomena can be taken as, together, constituting the general forms and laws which regulate the growth of all religious devotional biography.


These general laws appear to be as follows.

1. Three Laws.

There is the law of contemporary, simultaneous, spontaneous variation of apprehension. Vernazza and Marabotto, writing down, at the time of their occurrence or communication, certain facts and sayings with an equal self-oblivion, sincerity, and truthfulness, give us apprehensions which, in great part objectively valuable, are, nevertheless, more or less differing pictures of one and the same fact or saying, or different selections from amongst the moods and manifestations of one living personality observed by them.—There is the law of posterior, successive, reflective variation of elaboration.[372] The Dominican Censor and Battista Vernazza, re-thinking Catherine and her teaching, in other times and away from her direct influence, necessarily see her differently again: they are, as it were, spiritual grandchildren, who rather themselves absorb her and re-state her to their generation than they are themselves absorbed by her.—And there is the law of conservation, juxtaposition, and identification. First the Redactor of the Book of 1528-1530, and lastly the Redactor of that of 1551—probably, both times, Battista—with, in between, in 1547, the Redactor who attempted a quadripartite reschematizing of the Life—could not but try and soften the variations produced by the two other laws.

2. The third law tends to confuse the operation of the other two.

And note how it is precisely this third law and stage which largely tends to make the effects of the two other laws into causes of vagueness, confusion, and scepticism. For instead of conceiving the unity and identity of the subject-matter (a deep spiritual personality) as essentially inexhaustible, and as requiring, for its least inadequate apprehension, precisely both those simultaneous and spontaneous, and those successive and reflective experiences and reproductions of it, as furnished by the two other laws, this stage tends to confuse the identity of the apprehended subject-matter with a sameness in the apprehension of it; and, whilst thus robbing that subject-matter of its richness and movement, to introduce an element of arrangement and timidity into the originally quite naïf, and hence directly impressive, evidences of the observers. Yet the instinct and object of this third law is as legitimate and elementary as are those of the other two, since a real unity and utilization of all the preceding variety is as necessary as the variety to be thus integrated, and since the other two laws show a similar variety of actuation throughout religious literature.

3. Examples.

We find (to move in Church History back from St. Catherine) these three tendencies at work in the constitution of the Life and Legend of St. Francis of Assisi, A.D. 1181(?)-1226, traced for us now, with so much sympathy and acumen by M. Paul Sabatier and the Bollandists. We get them again in the case of St. Thomas of Canterbury, A.D. 1118-1171, especially in that of his Death and Miracles, so carefully studied in Dr. Edwin Abbot’s remarkable book[373] (1898). And, once more, in those Merovingian Saints, the great Martin of Tours in their midst, at the end of the fourth century, whose Lives have been so interestingly described by Bernouilli (1900). And we find them, with especial clearness, in the growth of the Life of St. Anthony, about A.D. 250-356, as contained in Palladius’s Historia Monachorum, now that Abbot Cuthbert Butler has given us his admirable analysis and edition of that deeply instructive compiler (1898, 1904).

If we take the Bible, we find (on moving here in a contrary direction) these laws again at work in the elucidation and elaboration of the great figure of Moses and of his world-historic life-work. For if here we get but little that can claim to be by his pen, or even, as literature, to be contemporaneous with him (since the earliest Corpus of Laws, the Book of the Covenant, reaches probably only in its substance back to him), yet here, too, the earliest consecutive descriptions of his life, by the Jahvist and Elohist writers, give us two different, though probably more or less simultaneous, largely naïve, accounts and impressions of his life and work. And these simultaneous variations are followed, later on, by the successive, increasingly reflective variations and developments of Deuteronomy and of the Priestly Code. And lastly, these documents get constituted (in probably two great stages), by Redactional work, into the great composite History and Legislation of our present last four Books of Moses.—So again with David. We have the David of some few of the Psalms; the David of the Books of Samuel, in a double series of most vivid and spontaneous, more or less simultaneous but somewhat differing, accounts; the David of the greater part of the Psalter, the result of a long process of devout successive reflection and re-interpretation; and the David of the Books of Chronicles, where pragmatic systematization reaches its height.—And so too with the Maccabean Heroes, whose history appears, apprehended with varying degrees of contemporary, simultaneous, spontaneous vividness, and of subsequent, successive, reflective pragmatism, in the documents and redactional settings of the First and Second Books of Maccabees.—And the growth indicated in these three cases covered respectively some eight hundred, seven hundred, and one hundred years.

But it is, of course, in the New Testament that the interest and importance of these laws reaches its height. If here we once more move backwards, the case of St. Paul (martyred[374] A.D. 64) furnishes us with parallel contemporary accounts of the spontaneous type, in his own Epistles and in the six “We”-passages by the eyewitness St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles; whilst the remaining account in the Acts is doubtless by a later, more reflective and pragmatic, writer.—And in the apprehension and interpretation of Our Lord’s inexhaustible life, character, teaching, and work, we find very plainly the three tendencies and stages. We get the contemporary, simultaneous, spontaneous stage, in the cases of the Aramaic annotations of the Apostle Levi-Matthew, which we still possess, translated and incorporated both in the larger and later book, our canonical Greek St. Matthew, and in the corresponding parts of our St. Luke; and in the reminiscences of another eyewitness, presumably St. Peter, given us by a disciple in what is still the substance of our Canonical St. Mark. We get the posterior, successive, increasingly reflective or contemplative stage, chiefly in the two great types furnished, first by the Pauline, and then by the Joannine writings. And we get the juxtaposing, unifying, largely identifying stage and law operating above all in the, partly successive, Canonization of the New Testament Corpus. And these three stages can be taken as having their downward limits in about A.D. 30, 100, 200; so that here we cover a period of some hundred and seventy years.

4. Three different attitudes possible.

And, in all these and countless other cases, we can take up three different attitudes: the impoverishing, sectarian, “purity” attitude; the destructive, sceptical, “identity” attitude; or the fruitful, truly Catholic “approximation” and “development” attitude. The first attitude assumes (ever in part unconsciously) the possibility and necessity of a purely objective apprehension of Personality, of such a Personality being a static entity, both in itself and in its effects upon, and its apprehendedness by, other souls, and of the earliest among the observations concerning such a Personality ever giving us such a purely objective, exhaustive picture and experience, or at least the nearest approach (in all respects) to such an exhaustive objectivity. The third attitude would so understand the admitted identity of the Personality observed as practically to identify also the simultaneous and successive observers and observations, and to eliminate all variety and growth in that spirit’s own inner life and in its apprehension by other minds. Only the second attitude would, by recognizing[375] both the constant, necessary presence of a subjective element in all these simultaneous and successive apprehensions, and the indefinite richness and many-sided apprehensibleness of all great spiritual Personalities, welcome and draw out all the difference in unity of these many “reactions,” as so many means, for a growing soul, towards a growing knowledge of that life and character, whose very greatness is, in part, measurable by the depth, variety, and persistence of these several effects, pictures, and embodiments of itself in different races, times, and souls.

Let us, then, betake ourselves to a systematic examination of one example of these world-wide three laws: the trouble taken will be well spent.


Had I found room to print my notes in justification of the text adopted by me, the reader would have gained some idea of the exceeding complexity of the materials furnished by the printed Vita e Dottrina. Indeed the original Preface to that book (1551) finds it necessary to conclude with the words “we therefore” (because of the book’s utility, indeed necessity, “in these turbulent times”) “beg the devout reader not to be disturbed” (stomacharsi now changed to meravigliarsi) “if he finds here matters which appear to be out of their proper order” (non ben ordinate), “and which are sometimes repeated; since attention has been given, neither to much precision” (distinzione), “nor to the order of events, nor to elegance of form, but only to that truth and simplicity with which its facts and discourses were gathered by devout spiritual persons” (“her Confessor and a Spiritual Son of hers”) “from the very lips of that Seraphic Woman.” Both the praise and the blame of this pregnant sentence will appear to be most fully deserved.

In our Second Part we have, in imitation of all experience in life itself, been thrown in medias res, and have thus gained some general idea and curiosity as to the sources of our knowledge; in this Appendix we will now, without repeating details already given, take this evidence, as much as possible, in its chronological order. And at each stage I shall attempt so to analyze the evidence of that stage, as to be able to use it as a check and test of the evidence of the next stage.—We shall, however, have to bear in mind that this method has necessarily, at each earlier stage, somewhat to beg the question;[376] for, in order to make its meaning everywhere sufficiently clear, it has from the first to assume a confidence of tone, which can be justified only by the whole argument, and which therefore has its logical place only at the very end.

This Appendix shall consist of two Divisions, of seven stages and eight sections respectively. The first Division gives the dated Documents, or such as can readily be restricted to within certain years; and the second Division analyses the remaining, undated Corpus and attempts to fix its origin and value.

First Division: Account and Analysis of the Documents previous, and immediately subsequent to, the “Vita e Dottrina” with the “Dicchiarazione.”

I. First Stage, 1456 to September 12, 1510, all Legal.

The documents of the first stage are all legal papers, and entirely contemporary and authentic. They have to furnish the skeleton which receives its clothing of flesh from the other documents. I shall here describe only those not described in Part II, and shall refer back to that Part for those already described there.

1. Deed of 1456.

There is, first, a deed of August 27, 1456. From amongst the shares belonging to Pomera (formerly) wife to (the late) Bartolommeo de Auria (Doria), but now (Sister) Isabella, in the convent of St. David; at the instance of Andrea de Auria, her only son, her heir, and of Francesca, the mother of Catherine, daughter of Jacobo de Fiesco: two shares of the Bank of St. George (£200) are set apart, for the benefit of the said Catherine, for her marriage, if she marries according to her Mother’s advice.[360] Note how early (Catherine is not yet nine years old) her mother, Francischetta (so a note to the copy of this document, no doubt correctly, calls her, and suspects[377] Pomera to have been her sister), is thinking of Catherine’s marriage; and how, although Catherine’s father is still alive, nothing is said as to his consent, perhaps simply because, this money coming from a maternal aunt and cousin, only the mother’s wishes are considered to be important here.

2. Catherine’s Marriage Settlement, January 1463.

There is, next, Catherine’s marriage settlement, made “at Genoa, in the quarter of St. Laurence, to wit in the sitting-room (caminata) of the residence of Francisca, formerly wife to the late Don Jacobo de Fiescho,” “with the public street in front, the house of Urbano de Negro at its right, and that of Sebastiano de Negro at its left and back”; “in the evening of Thursday, January 13, 1463”; between Giuliano Adorno, son of the late Don Jacobo, on the one hand, and Francisca, mother of Caterinetta and Jacobo and Giovanni de Fiesco, brothers of the same. Giuliano thereby pledges himself to give Catherine on their marriage, £1,000, and he “mortgages to her,” up to this amount, “a certain house of his own, situate in Genoa in the quarter of St. Agnes, with the public street in front, the house of Baldassare Adorno at the right hand” (it belonged before this to Don Georgio Adorno), “and on the other hand the public street.” And Francesca, Jacobo, and Giovanni promise to pay Giuliano, in bare money and in wedding outfit for Catherine, £400 on completion of the marriage, and another £400 in the course of the following two years; and they mortgage to him, up to this amount, the house in which the settlement is being made. Giuliano is to be free to live with his wife and her family in this same house, for these first two years after his marriage, without any payment.

At this date, then, Giuliano is already fatherless, and Catherine’s brother Lorenzo is still too young to have any legal voice in the matter. Although Catherine is, after the first two years, not guaranteed anything beyond £1,000 capital, or say £40 a year income, her outfit is a handsome one.

3. Catherine’s first Will, June 1484.

Then there is Catherine’s first Will, June 23, 1484, after twenty-one years of marriage. She is “lying” although “fully herself in mind, intellect, and memory,” yet “languid in body and weighted down by bodily infirmity, in the room, her residence, in the women’s quarters of the Hospital of the Pammatone,” which[378] “she has inhabited for a considerable time (jamdiu).” “And knowing herself to be without children, and without hope of future offspring,” she leaves the life-interest in her marriage-dowry of £1,000 to her husband, Giuliano; bids divide up, at his death, the bulk of this capital between the Hospital and her eldest brother Jacobo (£300 to each), and her two younger brothers Giovanni and Lorenzo (£150 to each); and orders her body to be buried in the Hospital Church.[361]

Ten years, then, after her Conversion, Catherine had already been living for a considerable time within the Hospital. They do not as yet occupy a separate building, or even a set of rooms within the Hospital; and, though both live within it, they evidently occupy separate rooms in different parts of the great complex of buildings; for the room here mentioned is simply Catherine’s (camera residentiae testatricis, where residentiae must be a descriptive and not a partitive genitive), and forms part and parcel of the women’s wards (in domibus mulierum). Her absence of hope as to offspring evidently arises primarily from the life of continence she is leading. Yet this latter determination is clearly not caused by any specific knowledge of her husband’s past infidelity: for Thobia must have been now some ten years old, yet there is no kind of mention of her; whilst, later on, Catherine never fails to remember her, with one exception to be presently explained. There is no mention of nephews and nieces, doubtless because her brothers were, as yet, either unmarried or childless, or, at least, daughterless. She is fairly well off, for besides this possession of £1,000 she gets her room and board free, and Giuliano has still some property of his own more considerable than hers. And the share left by her to relations is large—£600—as over against £300 to a public charity (the Hospital), and £100, presumably, for the funeral, minor charities, and Masses. If she says nothing, as yet, as to burial in the same grave with her husband, this is doubtless because she herself appears now to be the one likely to die first.

4. Giuliano’s Will, October 1494.

There is, fourthly, the first and last Will, October 20, 1494, of “the Reverend Sir, Brother Giuliano Adorno, professing the Third Order of St. Francis, under the care of the Friars Minor Observants,” already described on pages 151, 152. The will[379] is drawn up in the “sitting-room” (caminata) of the “habitation” of the Testator. Now the Notary, Battista Strata, in a foot-note to a first draft of an (unfinished) Will of Catherine, writes: “On the day on which I drew up Don Giuliano’s”; which words (owing to a multiplicity of converging indications) can only refer to this Will of October 2, 1494. And in this draft Catherine leaves legacies to the servants Benedetta (Lombarda) and Mariola Bastarda, as “abiding with, and dwelling in the house with, Testatrix.” It is clear then that, by now, Catherine and Giuliano are living under the same roof, in a distinct house within the hospital precincts, with two personal attendants for their common use. They will have moved, out of their separate single rooms, into this house, upon Catherine becoming Matron, in 1490. In this draft there appear also, for the first time, her brother Jacobo’s two daughters (£100 each); and her sister, the Augustinianess Limbania (£10).

5. Four minor documents, 1496-1497.

There are, next, certain minor documents of 1496-1497, which modify points of previous Wills and clear up details of her life. Thus, on June 17, 1496 Catherine signs a deed of consent to the sale of the Palace in the S. Agnese (Adorni) quarter.—On January 10, 1496, Giuliano, “sane in mind although languid in body,” orders, in a Codicil, that Catherine shall carry out, according to the directions of a certain Friar Minor, a vow made by himself to St. Anthony of Padua; notes that the Palace has been sold; and declares that she is to be free to annul, amend or diminish, according to her own judgment, his legacy of £500 to the Hospital.[362] And, in the Cartulary of the Bank of St. George, Catherine’s name appears as an Investor: on July 14, 1497 as “wife of Giuliano Adorno”; but on October 6 as “wife and testamentary heiress of the late Giuliano Adorno.”[363] These entries were considered on page 149 note. On the second occasion she orders that the Bank shall, after her death, annually pay over the interest of the fourteen shares (£1,400), now bought by her, to the Hospital of the Pammatone, in return for “the enjoyment and usufruct of a house and a greenhouse (viridario) of (within) the said Hospital,” which had been conceded to[380] her for her lifetime. The sum (about £56 a year) thus ceded by her is a handsome one, as she had, by now, well earned the use of this house by her constant labours for the Hospital, including her matronship from 1490 to 1496. I take it that she was again thinking of Thobia; so that this relatively large sum would cover at least part of the Hospital’s expenses incurred for this poor girl.

6. Catherine’s second Will, May 1498.

This has been studied on pages 152-154.

7. Deed of Cession, September 18, 1499; and Codicil of January 1503.

These have been studied on pages 155, and 168, 169.

8. Third Will, May 21, 1506; and Codicil of November 1508.

These have been described on pages 172-174; and 175, 176.

9. Fourth and last Will, March 18, 1509; and two last Codicils, August 3 and September 12, 1510.

These have been described on pages 185-187; 202, 203; and 212-214, respectively.

We have thus described all the fifteen documents which alone still bear dates within the range of Catherine’s lifetime, and whose contemporaneousness is above all challenge. They all have the pedantic, at first sight unmoving, indeed repulsive, form of legal documents. Yet the substance of quite ten of them undoubtedly proceeds from Catherine; and they all give us a most precious, precise certainty with regard to many cardinal points of locality, date, sequence, and self-determination in her life. True, neither the day, nor even the month, of her Birth or Baptism; nor the year of her Conversion; nor the date of the beginning of her Daily Communions; nor the facts as to the rarity or frequency of her Confessions; nor the day or month of Giuliano’s death, have been recoverable by any contemporary attestations. But on other points we thus possess a series of absolutely reliable documents, ranging from 1456 to 1510, whose testimony nothing can be allowed to shake.

II. Second Stage: Five further Official and Legal Documents, 1511-1526; and Four Mortuary Dates, 1524-1587.

And this first stage of the evidence is followed by a second, as dry and legal, and as absolutely reliable, as the other; yet[381] which still does not refer to any chronicle or notes of her life, (as either already extant or as in process of registration or radaction), but only to the fate of her remains and to certain turning-points in the lives of her disciples and eyewitnesses. I note here only those documents which fix for us the dates of the beginning of her Cultus, and which give us the latest contemporary proof for those persons being still alive.

1. We get thus the Hospital Account for the Moneys spent on the Religious Clothing of the Maid-Servant Mariola Bastarda, July 7, 1511; the entry in the Hospital Cartulary of the expenses incurred for the transport of stone and for a picture, in connection with the first opening of Catherine’s Deposito, July 10, 1512; the account, in the same book, concerning the funeral of Don Jacobo Carenzio, who had died occupying Catherine’s little house within the Hospital precincts, on January 7, 1513; a Will of the little widow-attendant Argentina del Sale, of January 15, 1522; and the Will of Don Cattaneo Marabotto, still “in good bodily and mental health,” May 11, 1526,—a document drawn up in his dwelling-place, the house belonging to his friends, the Salvagii.[364]

2. And to this group we can add four further dates, the first and last two of which are completely certain. Ettore Vernazza died on June 26 or 27, 1524; the year is fixed by the great plague epidemic which carried him off, and the month and day, by his daughter’s letter. Cattaneo Marabotto died, there is no reason to doubt, in 1528. Catherine’s Dominican cousin and close friend, Suor Tommasa Fiesca, died, eighty-six years of age, in 1534. And Battista Vernazza died, aged ninety, on May 9, 1587.[365]

Hence, up to eighteen years after her death, the two closest of Catherine’s confidants were alive; whilst one who had known her, and had been thirteen at the time of Catherine’s death, was still alive seventy-seven years after that event.


III. Third Stage: Bishop Giustiniano’s Account of Catherine’s Life, Remains, and Biography, 1537.

Our third stage is in strikingly manifold contrast to the other two. It is represented by but one single, largely vague and rhetorical, but human and directly psychological, document; and is the first that tells us of a Life.

1. The text.

Monsignore Agostino Giustiniano, Bishop of Nibio, published his Castigatissimi Annali … della Republica di Genova, in Genoa, in 1537. There, on p. 223, he tells us that he was born (of socially distinguished parents) in that city in 1470. And under the date of 1510 (p. 266) he writes: “And in the month of September, it pleased God to draw to Himself Madonna Catarinetta Adorna, who was daughter of Giacobo di Flisco, Vice-Roy of Naples for King René, and wife to Giuliano Adorno, with whom she lived many years in marital chastity. And her life, after the Divine goodness had touched her heart in the years of her youth, was all charity, love, meekness, benignity, patience, incredible abstinence, and a mirror of every virtue, so that she can be compared to St. Catherine of Siena. And all the city has participated in, and has perceived, the odour of the virtues of this holy matron, who, when rapt in the spirit, spoke, amongst other matters, of the state of the souls that are in Purgatory, things excellent and rare and worthy of being attended to by such persons as have a taste for the religious and spiritual life. Her body is deposited in the Oratory of the larger Hospital, and offers a spectacle no less admirable than venerable, appearing (come che sia) all entire with its flesh, so that she looks alive,—as though she had been placed there to-day; and yet full twenty-five years have passed since she began to lie there dead. The great consciousness of God, the special virtues, the saintly deeds, accompanied by an immense love, which were manifested by this venerable matron, would furnish matter well worthy of being recorded here. Yet we shall pass them over, for the sake of brevity; especially since a book worthy of respect (un digno libro) has been composed, concerning these things exclusively, by persons worthy of confidence (digne di fede).”

2. Its testimony.

Now this is a statement which we have every reason to trust. For Bishop Giustiniano, himself a native of Genoa,[383] forty years of age at the time of Catherine’s death, was a man of education, of solid character, and of social position; who, throughout his long book, is uniformly truthful and generally accurate; and who had here no conceivable reason for inventing or seriously misstating the few facts alleged by him. These facts, as regards the matter in hand, are three: that she spoke of various (evidently various spiritual) matters, and, amongst these, of the state of the souls in Purgatory; that a Book was extant at the end of 1535, which concerned itself exclusively with Catherine; and that persons worthy of trust had produced this Book.

(1) Giustiniano knows of no writings of hers: she had not written, but had only “spoken excellent and rare things,” and she had done so “when rapt in the spirit.” The exaggeration here (for when in ecstasy, she spoke nothing, or but a few broken words at most) is interesting, since it probably grew up as an explanation of, and consolation for, her not having herself written anything; since during the ecstasy she would be incapable of anything but speech, and out of the ecstasy she would not remember the sights and sounds perceived during the trance. And yet, thus, what had to be written down by others, whilst she was in ecstasy, would be more precious, because more immediately “inspired,” than what she herself could have thought, remembered, and written down, in her ordinary psycho-physical condition.

(2) The Book, in existence at the end of 1535, not only contained sayings concerning the state of the souls in Purgatory, but must have contained these sayings already collected together in a separate chapter or division. For her sayings concerning this matter by no means form the larger, or the most immediately striking, part of her authentic teaching, taken as a whole; and only if already collected into a more or less separate corpus would they have been singled out in this manner.—But, if this reasoning is sound and proves the existence of the Trattato, already more or less separate as at present, similar reasoning will prove the non-existence of the Dialogo. For the Trattato, even in its present length, fills but fifteen large-print octavo pages; while the Dialogo fills ninety. It is practically inconceivable that the latter document, which can never have existed otherwise than more or less separately, should have been overlooked here, where another, so much shorter, and at first sight less authoritative, is dwelt on with emphasis.


(3) More than one hand had participated in the production of the Book. It is characteristic of the rhetorically loose phraseology of the times that the word “composto” is so used as to leave it quite uncertain whether several original contributors of materials and but one Redactor who constituted these materials into a Book are meant, or whether a succession of Redactors is already implied.

3. Surviving eyewitnesses.

Certainly by this time the three chief eyewitnesses of her later earthly existence, Carenzio, Vernazza, and Marabotto were all dead, since respectively twenty-two, eleven, and seven years. Tommasa Fiesca had died in the previous year. Only Mariola Bastarda and Argentina del Sale, her old maid-servants, were probably still alive, from among the circle of Catherine’s constant companions; and Battista Vernazza, who was but thirteen when her God-mother died, had still fifty-two years to live. Yet we have to come still later down amongst extant documents before we can get any further evidence, whether external or internal, as to which of these persons, or who else (probably or certainly) wrote down the original contemporary notes; and as to who constituted these notes, (on one or on successive occasions) into this “Giustiniano-book,” as I shall call the manuscript “Vita e Dottrina,” extant in 1535.

IV. Fourth Stage: The Two Oldest Extant Manuscripts of the “Vita e Dottrina” with the “Dicchiarazione.”

The fourth stage of evidence is, as to its contents, the most important of all: but it is, as we shall see, twelve years younger: it belongs to the years 1547, 1548. It consists of two Manuscripts, the duodecimo-volume B. 1. 29 of the University Library; and the square octavo-volume of the Archives of the Cathedral Chapter, both in Genoa. Here, at last, we are face to face with an actual Life of our Saint. I have carefully collated them both upon the ninth Genoese Edition of the Vita ed Opere, Genova, Sordi Muti: the first MS., throughout, and the second one, sufficiently to make sure of its entire dependence upon the first. I have named them MS. A and MS. B respectively.


1. Manuscript A.
1. Its date and scribe.

Manuscript A is very interesting. It opens out as follows: “Jesus. Here beginneth the book in which is contained the admirable life and holy conversation of Madonna Catherinetta Adorna.… This book was begun and written at the request of her Magnificent Ladyship, the Lady Orientina, Consort to the most magnificent and generous, illustrious Lord Adam Centurione, when she was being vexed by a grave and well-nigh incurable infirmity, during now already thirteen months, by a Religious of the Observance … on the 7th of October of the year fifteen hundred and forty-seven.”—And Catherine’s Life concludes with the words: “Laus Deo semper. This book was written at the request of the Consort, of happy memory, of the … Lord Adam Centurione, who lay vexed by a most grave infirmity, during now two years. Many a time she would sit and find consolation, in her most painful torments, by reading of the burnings (incendii) which were suffered, for so long a time, by this holy woman.… At the thirteenth hour of the fourth of February God took her to Himself. She, a few days before she passed away, begged me with tears, in the presence of the Magnificent Lady, the Lady Ginetta, her most beloved daughter, to finish that which I had undertaken to produce for her own self. And so it will be of use to the latter, and will help her to bear her pains and travails, which may the Lord alleviate, by giving her good patience.”—After this follow thirty pages; containing an Italian version of St. Bernard’s Sermon on the death of his Brother Gerard, (Chapter XXVI of his Sermons on the Canticle of Canticles). And the whole concludes with the words: “Finished in the year Fifteen hundred and forty-eight, on the thirteenth of February.”

We have here, then, very precise dates: this Life was written between October 7, 1547, and February 4-13, 1548, by a Franciscan Observant, first for the wife, and then for the daughter, of a Doge of Genoa.

2. Comparison with the Printed “Life.”

Now the whole forty-two chapters of this Life, together with the Sermon, are engrossed throughout, in a careful and upright uncial script. On close comparison with the Printed Life the differences turn out to consist, either of vocabulary[386] and dialect, of a simply formal kind; or of additions and variations in the subject-matter, of an exceedingly trite and would-be edifying character; or of a very few additional passages of genuine importance; or of divisions, transpositions, and lacunae—the latter mostly of a significant and primitive kind; or, finally, of one highly interesting change, effected in his own copy, by the copyist himself.

(i) Vocabulary.

The Observant’s vocabulary is a curious mixture of downright (late) Latin, old French, and modern Italian. So “pagura” (paura); “in si” (se, Fr. soi); “despecto” (dispetto); “alchuna,” “anchora” (alcuna, ancora); “lingeriare” (ligare, Fr. lier); “summissa” (sommessa, Fr. soumise); “una fiata” (una volta, Fr. une fois); “dido” (digito, o. Fr. doight).[366] Some of these and such-like forms no doubt stood in his Prototype. Thus, whilst he simply copies, he writes—“pecto” and “licet”; when he makes up sentences of his own, he writes “petto” and “abenchè.” And his single Chapter XIII has, on two pages, “per il che”; but, on its last two pages, it has the elsewhere universal “perochè” (perchè).—Yet his language is, upon the whole, so uniform, whilst his sources (as we shall see) are so varied; and again his uniform language is in such marked contrast to Giustiniano’s educated Genoese Italian of 1535, and to that of the Printed Vita of 1551: that much of it, even where he is copying the substance of his Prototype, must be his own.

(ii) Worthless additions and variations, of two kinds.

The additions and variations are mostly of two kinds. They are either of a directly edificatory character. So the three pages descriptive of the devotion of the crowd, on occasion of the opening of the coffin, in the spring of 1512; the very general statement as to the miracles that occurred on that occasion; and, further back, the expansion (by this Franciscan scribe) of Catherine’s comments on (the Franciscan) Jacopone da Todi’s “la superbia in cielo c’è.”[367] And in one place, to produce edification by a sense of contrast, he adopts a touch of (doubtless legendary) gossip against Giuliano, for the heading of his Chapter XXIV runs:[387] “How she comported herself towards her husband, who was very contrary to her temperament; and concerning her indefatigable patience in bearing with him, and even with the beatings which he gave her”;[368]—where the end marked off by me is no doubt the Observant’s own addition,—possibly, as we shall see, on the authority of Argentina del Sale.—Or these additions are introduced to minimize or ward off scandal. So when, after expanding the parallel between the conversions of St. Paul and Catherine, he adds: ‘“For He spoke, and they were (re-)made’ (Ps. xxxii, 9). But we must not curiously seek for the reason of this action”; and then proves his point by three further Biblical texts. So too when, after giving an abbreviated account of the contrast between Thommasina’s and Catherine’s rate of spiritual advancement, he again adds some Bible text and some moralizing of his own. And so again where, after reproducing the passage as to her being linked to God with a thread of gold, he expatiates, once more in Scriptural words, on the presence of filial fear and the absence of all servile fear within her. And so where, after following his Prototype (as still preserved in the Printed Life), and declaring his belief that it is reasonable and licit to believe her soul to have entered Heaven immediately after death, he continues: “Hence he who does believe this, does not lose in merit” (non demerita; an obvious litotes for “merits”), “and he who believes it not, does not offend.” In all these cases the Biblical texts appear in the Vulgate Latin.[369]

There can be no doubt that it is this slight recasting of the language, and this insertion of trite and timid moralizing of his own, which, together with the careful engrossing of his copy throughout, and its occasional pretty decoration and illumination, permitted the Observant to talk (although, even thus, in a manner most misleading for our present habits of language) of having “written this Book.”

(iii) Two genuine dates and accounts.

Yet, even amongst the passages which appear in his MS. as additional to the later texts, are two evidently genuine and suggestive dates and accounts. There is a description of Catherine’s great attack of “fire at her heart,” more full and primitive, and more definitely dated than any one of its many variants and echoes to be found in the Printed Life: the slip in the date (he writes November 11, 1506, when his own age-indications, and the position of the anecdote, clearly require 1509) will have had something to do with the strangely[388] uncertain position of this episode in the Printed Life.[370]—And further back, in opening out the beautiful story of Marco and Argentina, he writes: “There being in the quarter of the Quay (contrada del Molo) one Marco del Sale, suffering from a cancer in the nose, who, fourteen months before his infirmity, had taken to wife a virtuous young woman named Argentina, spiritual daughter of Madonna Catherinetta, as is said above.”[371] This very precise distance of time, between that humble wedding and the poor navvy’s illness, will have been derived by the Observant from Argentina herself, probably still living at the time of his writing, even now hardly sixty years old.—Hence his long-winded addition, as to the mediation of the “spiritual daughter” (certainly Argentina), in the matter of our knowledge of Catherine’s prayer for the dying Giuliano,[372] may also have been derived from that gossipy little woman.

(iv) Divisions and transpositions.

As to the divisions and transpositions, the chief of these consist in the first six chapters of the Printed Vita appearing here broken up into (the first) ten chapters; in the MS. Chapters XI to XVI being gradually caught up by the Printed series,—indeed the MS. Chapter XVI corresponds to Chapters XVI to XVIII of the published book; in the Chapters XVII to XIX of the MS. corresponding to Chapters XX and XXI of the Print; and Chapters XX, XXI, and XXII of the MS., corresponding respectively to Chapters XXIV, XXV, and XXVII of the Print. Then for three Chapters follows considerable variation: the MS. Chapters XXIII, XXIV, and XXV hold the positions respectively of the Printed Chapters XXXVII, XLV and XLVI there. And then again there is likeness for three Chapters—MS. Chapters XXVI to XXVIII corresponding to Printed Chapters XXVIII and XXIX there. And once more three MS. Chapters (XXIX to XXXI), quite different in sequence to anything there, are followed by two Chapters (XXXII and XXXIII) corresponding to the Printed Chapters XXIX and XXX. Four more MS. Chapters (XXXIV to XXXVII), without any match, as to order, in the Printed book, are followed by two Chapters[389] (XXXVIII and XXXIX), corresponding, respectively, to the beginning and end of Chapter XXXI there; and by Chapter XL, identical with the opening of Chapter XL and with Chapter XLI there. And, above all, Chapter XLI here, corresponds to the Dicchiarazione (Trattato) there; and is followed here by a final Chapter (XLII), made up of a bewilderingly different succession of paragraphs,—paragraphs which, in the Printed Life, stand in Chapters XLIX; XVII; and XLVIII to LII. And, whereas the first forty Chapters of this MS. average six or seven pages in length, Chapters XLI and XLII are respectively forty-five and forty-eight pages long.

(v) Lacunae.

These transpositions would alone suffice to show how complicated is the textual history of the Vita: we may have to consider some of them later on. But it is the lacunae which are especially interesting. One of these is quite certainly right, as against the printed text. Paragraphs 23 to 25 of Chapter L of the Print are wanting here. Those pages give an entirely fantastic, and formally vague, account of a supposed interior stigmatization of Catherine, and of a preposterous elongation of one of her arms,—both “facts” based explicitly upon the authority of Argentina.[373] And the circumstance of the scribe being a disciple of the stigmatized St. Francis, and the probability that Argentina was still accessible, conjoin to render the absence of these paragraphs from this MS. simply decisive against their historical character.—The longest of all the omissions, that of the Dialogo, must, even more, be explained on the ground of its non-existence at this time, or, at least, of its not being known to the Scribe, or again, of its having as yet no kind of authority. For not only does he make no use of, or allusion to this, very long, and (were it primitive) simply supreme document, but, as we shall find, quite a number of his facts contradict the Dialogo’s version of them; and we shall soon see that, had he known and esteemed the document, he would not have allowed such a defiance of it to remain without correction.

Over against these two non-appearances of spurious or secondary matter, we have to set three omissions of highly valuable material. The two interconnected, obviously entirely historical, paragraphs concerning Maestro Boerio,—his attempt[390] to cure Catherine, and the excessive impression made upon her by his scarlet robes,[374]—are both wanting here. But we shall see that they were probably not incorporated in any Vita, till the preparation of the Printed Life of 1551.—Matters stand differently with respect to the third omission,—the beautifully vivid, inimitably daring and characteristic, Chapter XIX, containing Catherine’s dialogue with the Friar, who, according to the well-informed Parpera, was a Franciscan Observant.[375] It is impossible to hold that this, most historical and well-preserved, story did not stand in the Observant’s Prototype, or that it was otherwise unknown to him; its omission is doubtless deliberate and “prudential.”—An interesting instance of demonstrable omission on his part, is indeed furnished also by his version of the beautiful story of Suor Tommasa’s life: his abbreviation of it is so obvious and yet so unintelligent, that only a reference to the full account, which lay certainly before him and is still preserved in the Printed Life, makes any satisfactory sense of what he has retained.[376]

3. Modification from a tripartite scheme to a quatripartite one.

But the most interesting of all the differences between this MS. A of 1547 and the Printed Life of 1551 is another group of omissions, connected, as these are, with the one single modification introduced into his own text by the Scribe himself. The whole of the matter corresponding to the Printed Life’s Chapter XLIV (all but the first seven lines) and that corresponding to the first three paragraphs of its Chapter XLIX, which treat consecutively, and with an inimitable vividness and a daring, unreflective truthfulness, of her most unusual self-revelations to her Confessor Don Marabotto,[377] is omitted—possibly, again, in part at least, from fear of scandal; but more probably because, even at this time, this (the most private and consecutive) contribution to the Life, still existed separately, perhaps from all, and presumably from most, copies of the Vita then in circulation. And such a copy will have been the Observant’s Prototype.—Only when he had finished copying out his manuscript, will he have discovered that, if[391] he would take any, even though silent, account of that contribution, which, by now, will have become known to him, he must, at all costs, break up and seriously modify one of his chapters. We have already studied the treble, most solemn affirmation, by Catherine and her Confessor themselves, in that Printed Chapter XLIV, as to her twenty-five years of spiritual loneliness and guidance by God alone;[378] and we have seen that (since we cannot place her Conversion before 1474, nor the beginning of her later practice of Confession after 1499) we are forced (if we take her words in their obvious sense, as applying to Confession as well as to Direction, and assume her First Convert-Period, the penitential time, to have been accompanied throughout by repeated Confessions) to make this first Period very short.

Now the volume of 1547, 1548, consists throughout of paper, all but the first three leaves and the tenth leaf, which are of parchment. The first leaf remains blank; the second contains the Observant’s Preface on its obverse; the third holds, on its two sides, the first two pages of the Vita. That Preface was certainly written before all the rest, or at least certainly during the lifetime of Donna Orientina Centurione, i.e. before February 4, 1548; nor does anything in those first two (parchment and paper) pages of text suggest that they are an insertion subsequent to the following (paper) pages. At first, then, the copy will have consisted of three parchment leaves, and then of nothing but paper leaves; and the Observant will have made the last of these parchment leaves the sole and opening parchment leaf of the text of the Book.

But matters stand differently with the tenth leaf, pp. 19, 20 of the MS., which begins with the words “bisogna, sono apparecchiata a confessar”—“(if) necessary, I am prepared to confess my sins in public” (Catherine’s words, on occasion of her Conversion); and ends with “(abru) savano insino al core. Poi fù tirata al Petto”—“Love, with those penetrating rays of its own, which burnt her, even to the heart. She was then drawn to the Breast” (narrative words which, in the scheme of her Life that follows upon the Conversion-story, mark the transition from one of this scheme’s stages to another).

Now here we have clear indications that these two parchment pages hold a modified text. For that last parchment-leaf[392] word “Petto” is picked up, on the paper continuation, by “Pecto,” the ordinary form of the Observant’s Prototype: see his page 81. And the whole book (all but this parchment leaf and its highly restricted effects), still attributes four years to her First Convert-Period, her Penitential, Purgative Stage.

Indeed, this solitary parchment leaf itself still allows us to trace, (as though the leaf were a Palimpsest), both this, the original, length of that Period, and the fact of that Period having then been the first of three, and not, as now, of four such periods.—For this leaf, in finishing up the manuscript’s fourth chapter, the history of her Conversion,[379]—declares that “this sight (of her sins) and this contrition (for them) lasted fourteen months, during which she went on confessing herself, continually increasing her self-accusation (aggravando la colpa); after the passing of which months, all sadness was lifted from her, nor did she have any memory of her sins,—as though she had cast them into the depths of the sea.” And then, in the opening of the fifth chapter,[380] the scheme and conspectus of her Convert Life runs as follows. She is first “drawn to the feet of Christ” and abides there “one year until she had satisfied her conscience by Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction.”—“She next felt herself drawn, with St. John, to repose on the Breast of her Loving Lord.… The sight of the sins committed by her against God would come to her, so that she would be, as it were, wild (arrabbiava) with grief, and would lick the ground with her tongue; and in this wise she appeared to derive relief for her tempestuous feelings (affannato cuore). And she abode thus for three years, during which she was, as it were, wild with grief and love, with those penetrating rays of its own, which burned her to the very heart.[381] She was then drawn to the Breast”—which last parchment-leaf word is taken up by the next, ordinary paper-leaf: “Breast; and here she was shown the Heart of Christ.… And she abode many years with this impression of His burning Heart.—And then she was drawn (still) further up, that is, to the Mouth; and there she was found worthy of being kissed by the true Solomon.… And she no more (directly) recognized her human acts, whether they had been done well or evilly; but she saw all in God.”[382]


We see here how the original four years of her First Period, which are still retained elsewhere by the Printed Vita,[383] have been broken up by the scribe of this Manuscript into two shorter (first and second) Periods, of fourteen months (one year), and three years respectively; how the copyist, both in his first apportionment of length to his new First Period, “fourteen months,” and in his second assignment, now of one year (since he has to divide up the original Four years so as to get them again by addition, “one year” and “three years”), leaves us two curious echoes of the “Four” of his Prototype; how his amended description of his new second Period is still largely the old Penitential description, for she still sees her sins (a sight which is here an anachronism), and she is still prostrate on the ground (a prostration which exactly suits the Feet, but in no way the Breast of Christ); how the Observant has been half-hearted and clumsy, for he has now left two successive Breast-Periods, hardly differentiated from each other; and how he was able to shift (though not to change) the original single Breast-Period (now his second Breast-Period), because of its conveniently vague time-note of “many years.” All this laborious, yet timid, incomplete and ineffectual change, thus forced upon an evidently long-established, toughly resisting composition, can only have taken place under some severe pressure of evidence; and the root-causes of the change are somehow connected with the question as to the duration, in her life, of the perception and Confession of her sins. For the Confession of her sins, which (in the old scheme) extended over four years, is now restricted to fourteen months or one year; and if contemplative and restful love are now anticipated (from the original second Period) in the new second Period of three years, yet an intense sight of her particular sins, piercing contrition for them, and a complete prostration on the ground, are all indeed retained, from the original Feet-Period, for this new second Period, but Confession has disappeared from these three years.

Now we have precisely such absolutely constraining evidence in Marabotto’s treble chronicle of Catherine’s own words, with regard to the twenty-five years during which she was led by God’s spirit alone. It is clear then that the most important of Marabotto’s notes did not exist incorporated with, or at least had not originally formed part of, and did not dominate,[394] the scheme of the Vita which the Observant had before him; and that, upon his later knowledge of, or pondering over them, he understood Catherine’s words to have applied, not simply to Direction but to (at least at all habitual) Confession as well.

2. Manuscript B.
1. Its very primitive heading.

Manuscript B starts indeed with a heading demonstrably older than that of MS. A. For its “De la Mirabile Conversione et Vita de la q(uondam) donna Catherinetta Adorna” is more primitive, because of its “the late,” which indicates a time of writing not yet far removed from the date of her death; its “Donna,” less honorific than the “Madonna” of the other MSS.; and, above all, its giving “Conversione” before “Vita,” instead of “Conversatione” after “Vita,” since thus we are assured of “Conversione” being no slip of the pen for “Conversatione,”—Conversion coming necessarily before, and holy Conversation coming after, in consequence of, an admirable life.—And this title will originally have headed a booklet containing simply the story of her Conversion and early Convert life, say, up to the end of Chapter VI of the Printed Vita, p. 17b; or, since even the “et Vita” of this title reads like a later addition, only up to the end of the present printed Chapter II, p. 6c. I think there is no doubt that we have here the original heading of a tract put together on occasion of the first public Cultus, in the summer of 1512.

2. Body of MS. B dependent upon MS. A.

But the body of MS. B is demonstrably later than, indeed dependent upon, MS. A; for here the scribe silently adopts the modification, effected by the writer of MS. A in his own text, with regard to doubling the Breast-Period; and yet, even here, we have still the Observant’s “Petto” for the first period, and the “Pecto” of the Observant’s Prototype for the second period.[384] “Come” now appears throughout, in lieu of MS. A’s “Como.” And Giuliano’s name is omitted (all but once, in Catherine’s mouth) in the Husband-Chapter.[385]

3. Order, division, numeration of the Chapters.

The order, division, and numeration of the Chapters is identical with those of MS. A, all but that Chapter XXXIX of MS. A (equivalent to the unimportant pp. 82b-83a of[395] Chapter XXXI in the Printed Life) is here omitted. No Chapter numbered XXXIX appears here, but, after a small break behind Chapter XXXVIII, the Trattato follows, as Chapter XL.

4. Laceration at end of Manuscript.

And this Chapter XL is abruptly broken off in the midst of a penultimate paragraph: “et per gratia li sono monstrati et” are the last words. The authentication of the MS., appended immediately after this rough ending, shows this laceration to be at least as old as 1672. Nor is it a case of some complete set or sets of leaves being lost, since one leaf has had to be torn off, from the still remaining other half-sheet.[386] The last part, no doubt, contained the end of the Trattato and the Passion-Chapter; and will, like its Prototype, MS. A, have been without a trace of the Dialogo. Indeed I suspect that it was the latter circumstance which, when once this elaborate composition had come to be prized, gave rise to the, surely deliberate, destruction of the evidence for its absence here. MS. A will, in that case, have been saved from a similar fate, by its special appropriation to a powerful family; by its superior, uncial kind of script; and, above all, by its important contemporary date and dedication at the end.

V. Fifth Stage: Manuscript C.

Our next, deeply interesting stage, is represented by one single MS. in the University Library, Genoa,—catalogued as B. VII 17. It is a careful copy, made throughout by the Protonotary Angelo Luigi Giovo, and subscribed by himself on April 20, 1671, of, as he there says, “Another ancient MS. received from the Signora ——, Matron of the Great Hospital, who declared that she had herself received it from the Nuns of the Madonna delle Grazie; and which is believed, with great probability, to be the MS. copied by Ettore Vernazza and sent to the Venerable Donna Battista, his daughter. The book, in view of the antiquity of the paper, of the character of the binding of the copy, and of the other peculiarities, has been judged by experts to belong to the above-mentioned Period.” The reader will soon see why I place (not necessarily the execution, but the text of) the MS.[396] thus copied by Giovo, before the printing of the Vita in 1551, and will thus be helped to a decision as to the “greatly probable” attribution to Ettore Vernazza.

1. Differences in text of MS. C from MSS. A and B.

Giovo’s Copy (my MS. C) follows, up to the end of its Chapter XLI (the Trattato), the division, number, and sequence of the chapters, and the peculiarities of the text, of MS. A, with an all but unbroken closeness: even the slip, of 1506 (for 1509), in the date of the great attack of “fire at heart,” reappears here as it stands there (fol. 33v of MS. C, compared with p. 193 of MS. A). But the “Petto” and “Pecto,” of respectively the first and second Breast-Periods in MSS. A and B, read here, in both cases, as simply “Petto” (MS. C, fol. 3).—There is but one at all remarkable addition in this, the Vita-part of the MS. In the account of the refusal to accept Catherine on the part of the Nuns of the very Convent where, as we shall see, the Prototype copied by Giovo was no doubt written, there occur the new words: “Although her Confessor was instant with them (to take her), knowing her, as he did, better than the Nuns knew her” (MS. C, fol. 1v).—And, in concluding further on (on its fol. 71v seq.) with the Passion-Chapter, as this stands in MS. A (Chapter XLII), a Chapter which here (for a reason to be given in a minute) is not numbered, the MS. still follows closely (although now with a few generally unimportant additions, omissions, and transpositions of paragraphs), the matter, order, and literary form of MS. A.—Only one, formally slight, but materially significant, difference exists here between Giovo’s text and the Printed Life. The Printed Life, p. 142b, reads: “After this, she felt a hard nail at heart”; to this MS. C adds (fol. 72r) “so that she seemed nailed to the Cross.” Neither set of words occurs in MSS. A and B. MS. C here gives us something unlike Catherine’s, but very like Battista’s, special spirit.

2. The great addition: the “Dialogo,” Part First.
(1) The “Dialogo” originally no longer.

But it is in the pages intermediate between the Trattato and the Passion (foll. 53v to 71v), that lies the interest of this MS. For here we get, for the first time, the Dialogo, although, as yet, only its eventual First Part (pp. 185-225 in the Printed Life). Chapter XLI (the Trattato) has just finished, by only six lines short of its printed form, with the words[397] “because that occupation with Himself which God gives to the soul, slight though it be, keeps the soul so occupied, that it exceeds everything, nor can the soul esteem anything else.” And immediately next there come (53v) the title-words: “Here follows a certain beautiful Allegory (Figura) which this holy soul institutes () concerning the Soul and the Body.”—The eventual division into (17) chapters is still absent, and the work seems, at this time, to have been planned to be no longer than it is here. For it concludes with the emphatic climax: “Now the Spirit, having come to hold this creature in this manner, declared: ‘I am determined henceforth no more to call her a human creature, because I see her (to be) all in God, without any (mere) humanity.’” For these words simply re-cast the last words of the scheme of her entire life, given by the Vita: “She said: ‘I live no more, but Christ lives in me.’ Hence she could no more recognize the quality of her human acts, in themselves—whether they were good or evil; but she saw all in God” (Pr. L., p. 6c).

(2) The “Dialogo’s” two stages, each comprising two steps, and their suggestions in the “Vita.”

Now the Dialogo, as here given, consists of two chief stages, and each stage contains two steps.

Chapters I to VI give the first stage—the history of a soul in a state of moral and spiritual decline and contraction: all this, in the form of a Dialogue between the Soul, the Body, and Self-Love.—Throughout this first stage Self-Love holds dominion. But, during the first step, the Soul (although it already distinguishes, with regard to what it intends to practise, between simply avoiding grave sin and striving after perfection) still continues fairly determined not to commit sin, and still leads the Body. During the second step, on the contrary, even this simple avoidance of grave sin has ceased, for now the Body leads the Soul. Thus first the Soul, and then the Body, each leads the other during one step, for “one week.”—These two steps or weeks stand for the two lustres of Catherine’s pre-Conversion-Period, for the lukewarm, and then the positively dissipated, lustre respectively. Chapters I to III give the first week, equivalent to the first five years of her married life, 1463 to 1468; and Chapters IV to VI give the second week, and correspond to the second five years, 1468 to 1473.[387]


Chapters VII to XXI describe the second stage, that of Conversion and Transformation, which (notwithstanding its