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CHAPTER XXXIX

How the spirit deprived her of her confessor, who concealed himself where he could witness her peace of mind in the midst of these tortures.—She had visions of angels.—Of the experiments tried by various physicians.—Of one who had come from England.—Of further divine operations.

On the 10th of January, 1510, during one of these attacks, all need of her confessor vanished from her mind, and she had no more desire to see him, either for the support and consolation of her body or her soul. She kept this thought secret for many hours, but expressed the contrary. This thought came from the spirit, who wished to deal with humanity without any intervention, and believed that the confessor, who thought she must do and say all she wished to do and say, might influence her too much, knowing, as she did, that all was by the ordinance of God.

When the confessor was removed, humanity was left desolate upon the earth, and could hardly endure herself, consuming away and yet living, because it was not God’s time for her to die. The confessor at one time concealed himself to watch the operations of God in this soul. She locked herself into her chamber, alone; and, in her agony poured out her lamentations to her Lord, exclaiming: “O Lord! what dost thou wish me to do in this world? All my interior and exterior senses are lost. I find nothing in myself like other creatures, but I am like one dead; no creature understands me. I am alone, unknown, poor, naked, strange, and opposed to all the world; neither do I know what the world is, and therefore I can no longer dwell with creatures on the earth.” She uttered these and many such expressions so piteously, that they would have melted the stones with compassion. The confessor, who was concealed and heard them all, was so moved that he was obliged to discover himself, and drawing near, spoke to her (for God had given him the grace), in such a manner that she remained consoled in body and mind for many days.

The sufferings of this blessed soul increased in violence, and her attacks became more frequent, and were sometimes too agonizing for human eyes to behold. She seemed writhing in flames of fire, and could not be kept upon her bed. Sometimes these tortures would continue for a day and night, without ceasing, and it seemed as if every moment must be her last. She lost sight and speech, but by signs asked that extreme unction might be given her, for she believed herself dying; but she lived to endure great sufferings, for through all that she had hitherto endured, she had remained in communication with God, and experienced great peace and interior joy in the midst of them; but now it was ordered that for a season she should be deprived of this divine communication, and should be left naked and desolate, with nothing to hold her to life but the conviction that this was the will of God concerning her. She would sometimes exclaim in her desolation: “It is now nearly thirty-five years, O my Lord, since I have asked anything of thee for myself; but now, most earnestly do I implore thee not to separate thyself from me. Thou well knowest, O Lord, that I could not endure it.”

She said this because, from the time she was first called by God, her mind had always been in union with him, and at peace, and hence the separation appeared dreadful to her; her soul became more resigned, but humanity more tortured, at every fresh attack. When she was able to speak, her words appeared flames of divine love, and so penetrated the hearts of those who heard them, that they were deeply moved, and filled with astonishment.

On one occasion she had four excruciating attacks in one night. So great was the distress of her nerves, that from her head to her feet there was not a spot free from suffering; she cried aloud in her agony, and those around her implored God to have mercy on her, but she could find no relief, and yet she said, during a pause: “Tongue cannot tell, nor imagination conceive the peace of mind that I enjoy, but as to the human part, all the sufferings that man could inflict are nothing to the pains I endure; and in these operations the spirit and humanity are both watching to observe the doings of God. It is not the spirit, but humanity that cries out in agony.”

In the intervals of this suffering, her body appeared in health, and free from any feverish affection. She laughed and spoke like a person in health, and told others that they must not be troubled on her account, for she was happy, but that they must strive to do right, for the ways of God were very strait.

She had at this time many visions of angels, and sometimes she was seen laughing with them. She smiled without speaking, and, as has been related, she beheld the joy of the angels, who consoled her and showed her the preparation for her future triumph. She also beheld the devils, but with little fear, for she was secure in her perfect union with God, which drives out all fear.

About four months before her death, after all the attempts of numerous physicians for her relief, another, more extraordinary, was made. Several medical men were summoned, who examined this suffering creature, investigated all the symptoms of her malady, and afterward came to the conclusion that it was supernatural, and no remedy of medical science could reach it. This she had often said herself, and refused to take the medicines prescribed her. But when the physicians persevered in their prescriptions, she took them in spirit of obedience, although with great pain and injury to herself, until the physicians themselves came to the above mentioned conclusion.

But there arrived from England a Genoese named Boerio, who had been for many years physician to the king of that country. He was surprised, when he heard of the fame of this holy lady, that she should speak of her infirmity as not natural and requiring no medical remedy. Hardly believing this report to be true, he obtained permission to visit her, and reproved her for the scandal she caused by rejecting medical aid, even accusing her of hypocrisy. To all this she humbly answered: “It grieves me much to be the cause of scandal to any one, and if any remedy can be found for my disease, I am ready to make use of it.” The physician, availing himself of her consent and obedience, applied various remedies, but at the end of twenty days, finding herself no better, she told him that she had submitted to his treatment in order to remove all scandal from his eyes, and from the eyes of others, but now he must leave the care of her soul to herself. For it was thus that the Holy Spirit (who worked and spoke through her) wished to confound the too great confidence of physicians in their science. After this Boerio held her in great reverence, calling her mother, and often visited her.

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