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CHAPTER XXXVII

Continuing an account of her extraordinary way of life, and her wonderful condition for some time before her death.

For nearly nine years before her death, the saint suffered from a malady not understood by physicians or by any one else. It was not a bodily infirmity; neither did it seem to her a spiritual operation; and it was very difficult on the part of those who attended her to know how to treat it. Medicine was of no avail, still less the support obtained from bodily sustenance; but at length a way was found to control it.

She was greatly debilitated, so that at times she appeared to be near her end. For a year before her death she did not eat in a week what another would require for one meal, and for the last six months she only took a little broth, refusing everything else.

She never omitted holy communion, except when absolutely unable to receive it, and in that case she suffered more from the deprivation than from all her infirmities: indeed, it seemed as if she could not live without this most holy sacrament. The vehemence of her spirit became at length so great that it shattered her bodily frame from head to foot; so that there was not a limb or nerve that was not tormented by her inward fires. She threw off blood and other s ubstances, so that it was thought that she retained nothing even of the very little she ate; and for the last two weeks she took nothing but the most holy communion. She could not sleep, her suffering was so intense, and her screams were dreadful.

The burning interior and exterior flames prevented her from moving or being moved. Her sufferings banished from her all friends and spiritual persons who could offer her any relief, so that she remained in perfect interior and exterior solitude. And she suffered, too, in another way. Her humanity would sometimes crave food so extremely, that it would make any effort to obtain it; and when it was offered, the appetite was gone and she could not taste it, but remained patient in her hunger.

She was so entirely abandoned to her sufferings, that she appeared as if transfixed to the cross, with no desire but for the blessed sacrament. On the other hand, she was so happy, and uttered such burning words of divine love, that all around her wept from emotion. Many persons came from a distance to see her, and speak with her, and recommended themselves to her, believing that they had been a creature more divine than human, as in truth she was. They beheld heaven in her soul, and purgatory in her agonized body.

She saw the condition of the souls in purgatory in the mirror of her humanity and of her mind, and therefore spoke of it so clearly. She seemed to stand on a wall separating this life from the other, that she might relate in one what she saw suffered in the other.

We are told of St. Ignatius, that after his martyrdom his heart was opened, and on it was found inscribed, in letters of gold, the sweet name of Jesus, and who can doubt that if the heart of this loving servant of God had been opened, some wonderful mark would have been found upon it. The burning flames within even changed the color of the flesh about her heart, and if fire was applied to her body, she did not feel it, so much more powerful was the interior flame. But there is this difference between material fire and the flames of divine love, that the one consumes and destroys, while the other sustains and strengthens.

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