Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Soul Yearns for the Living God

by Chris Mcals

"Today my burning longing for the Father stayed with me for a very long time...  there was an instance earlier in prayer when both the pain and the delight were so intense that my very bones pined painfully for God. 

My body felt like a cage or a prison trapping my spirit, preventing it to soar up to my Beloved Father, and I was consumed with the desire to be free to fly up to Him, and to lose myself in Him. My helplessness only increased the painful yearning. 

Knowing that I was completely helpless, I stretched my hands upwards, like a baby who wants to be picked up by his dad, unable to utter a word or even a thought. I longed for God to scoop me up into His arms and forever hide me unto Himself.

Deep inside, I knew that my family needed me. I had to stay here on this earth to do God's work, but I couldn't help asking Him with all my heart, "How long, my Lord? How much longer before I'm allowed to join You forever?"

Meanwhile I was being consumed inside like wax exposed to a fire. What could I do? I couldn't reach the Object of my love by any effort whatsoever, and yet all I longed for, was to be united to God, so I just sat there languishing and swooning with my burning longings for God, hoping against hope that He would either heal me, or take me unto Himself. In the words of the great St. Teresa of Avila, "As a result of God’s wondrous blessing, the soul is consumed with a yearning to completely enjoy the One who bestows these blessings, that it lives in great, but delightful torment. With tears and the strongest desire to die, it begs God to take it from its exile."
In my heart I knew that God wasn't going to do either, so I wondered who else in the world might be able to heal me? There wasn't anybody who could possibly do that, except God. In that respect I felt alone and singled out, but in a good way. It's just that I knew there was no remedy for me in this world unless God Himself offered it, and He wasn't going to do it just yet. So I sat there totally helpless, languishing with my burning desire for God.

This delightful pain is overwhelming and also very hard to give up willingly, but I would do so in an instant if, by so doing, I could soar up to my Beloved Father and lose myself in Him. Alas, I often have to force my attention on things that have nothing to do directly with God, however this delightful pain stays with me through it all and I have to somehow manage to pay attention to both God and to what I have to do."

Here is how St. Catherine of Genoa describes this burning desire for full Union with God through her own experience:

“I perceive there to be so much conformity between God and the soul that when He sees it in the purity in which His Divine Majesty created it, He gives it a burning love, which draws it to Himself, which is strong enough to destroy it, immortal though it be, and which causes it to be so transformed in God that it sees itself as though it were none other than God.  Unceasingly God draws the soul to Himself and breathes fire into it, never letting it go until He has led it to the state from which it came forth - that is, to the pure cleanliness in which it was created.

When with its inner sight the soul sees itself drawn by God with such loving fire, then it is melted by the heat of the glowing love for God its most dear Lord, which it feels overflowing it.  And it sees by the divine light that God does not cease drawing it, nor from leading it, lovingly and with much care and unfailing foresight, to its full perfection, doing this out of His pure love.

But the soul, because it is hindered by sin, cannot go where God draws it; it cannot follow the uniting look by which God would draw it to Himself.  Again the soul perceives the grievousness of being held back from seeing the divine light; the soul’s instinct, too, since it is drawn by that uniting look, craves to be unhindered. 

I say it is the sight of these things that begets in the souls the pain they feel in purgatory. Not that they make account of their pain; although it is most great, they deem it far less evil than to find themselves going against the will of God, whom they clearly see to be on fire with extreme and pure love for them.

Strongly and unceasingly this love draws the soul with that uniting look, as though it had nothing else than this to do.  Could the soul who understood this find a worse purgatory in which to rid itself sooner of all the hindrance in its way, it would swiftly fling itself therein, driven by the conforming love between itself and God.

When gold has been purified up to twenty-four carats, it can no longer be consumed by any fire; not the gold itself but only the dross can be burnt away.  Thus the Divine Fire works in the soul: God holds the soul in the fire until its every imperfection is burnt away and it is brought to perfection, as it were, to the purity of twenty-four carats - each soul, however, according to its own degree.  

When the soul has been purified it remains wholly in God, having nothing of the self in it, its being is in God, who has led this cleansed soul to Himself. The soul can suffer no more, for nothing is left in it to be burnt away. Were it held in the fire when it has thus been cleansed, it would feel not pain. Rather the Fire of Divine Love would be to it like eternal Life and in no way contrary to it."

The following is a brief biography of this dear saint.


Born in Genoa, Italy in 1447, she died in the same place on Sep. 15, 1510. The life of St. Catherine of Genoa may be more properly described as a state of being than as a life in the ordinary sense.

When she was about twenty-six years old she became the subject of one of the most extraordinary experiences of God in the human soul, the result being a marvelous inward condition that lasted till her death. In this state, she received wonderful revelations, of which she spoke at times to those around her, but which are mainly embodied in her two celebrated works: the "Dialogues of the Soul and Body", and the "Treatise on Purgatory." 

St. Catherine is described as an extraordinarily holy child, highly gifted in the way of prayer, and with a wonderful love of Christ's Passion and of penitential practices; but, also, as having been a most quiet, simple, and exceedingly obedient girl. When she was thirteen, she wished to enter the convent, but the nuns refused her on account of her age. She appears to have put the idea aside without any further attempt.

At sixteen, she was married by her parents to a young Genoese nobleman, Giuliano Adorno. The marriage turned out wretchedly; Giuliano proved faithless, and violent-tempered and made the life of his wife miserable.

Details are few, but it seems clear that Catherine spent the first five years of her marriage in silent, depressed submission to her husband, and the next five years she turned to the world for consolation in her troubles. 

The distractions she took were quite innocent, nevertheless they had the effect of producing lukewarmness which resulted in such intense weariness and depression that she prayed earnestly for a return of her old fervor.

One day, deeply depressed, she went to a convent in Genoa to visit her sister who was a nun. The latter advised her to go to confession to the nuns' confessor, and Catherine agreed. 

No sooner had she knelt down in the confessional than a ray of Divine Light pierced her soul, and in one instant manifested her own sinfulness and the Love of God with equal clearness. 

The revelation was so overwhelming that she lost consciousness and fell into a kind of ecstasy, during which time the confessor happened to be called away. When he returned, Catherine could only murmur that she would put off her confession, and go home quickly.

From the moment of that sudden vision of herself and God, the saint's interior state seems never to have changed, save by varying in intensity. She began to practice more or less severe penance, according to what she saw required of her by the Holy Spirit, Who guided her incessantly. 

For about twenty-five years, Catherine, though frequently making confessions, was unable to open her mind for direction to anyone; but towards the end of her life a Father Marabotti was appointed to be her spiritual guide. To him she explained her states, past and present, in full, and he compiled her "Memoirs." 

Her biographies practically tell us two facts concerning her exterior life: that she at last converted her husband, who died a penitent in 1497; and that both before and after his death, though more entirely after it, she gave herself to the care of the sick in the great Hospital of Genoa, where she eventually became manager and treasurer.

She died worn out with labors, and consumed, even physically, by the Fires of Divine Love within her. She was beatified in 1675 by Clement X, but not canonized till 1737, by Clement XII. 

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