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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

letters to neri di landoccio
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