CHAPTER X

 

SHE IS TORMENTED WITH INTERIOR PAINS TO SO

FRIGHTFUL A DEGREE THAT SHE IS EXAMINED

BY SOME DIVINES, WHO DECLARE HER STATE TO

BE FROM GOD

 

 

THE life of this Saint verifies perfectly the oracle of the Holy Ghost, that God tries those souls whom He predestines to glory, and that the greatest favors He lavishes upon them in this life, are the preludes to those interior crosses which He prepares in order to purify them.

 

The blessed Rose having attained to a very close and perpetual union with God, began to be attacked every day at certain intervals with such frightful darkness and obscurity, that she was often a whole hour without being able to distinguish whether she were in hell with the condemned, or in purgatory with the souls who there satisfy the justice of God.  In this horrible darkness she had no thought of God, no idea of His mercies, and to fill up her chalice with bitterness, she had in her mind a confused remembrance of the love she had had for Him.  As during this reflection she found herself in a very different condition from that former happy state, she imagined that she no longer knew God, and that she was reduced to the dreadful state of never being able to love Him.  While these clouds of darkness obscured her mind, she thought she considered Almighty God as a stranger, an unknown person, in a word, as something as far from her thoughts and ideas, as if she had never had any union or friendship with Him.

 

In this species of desolation she seemed to see before her eyes an impassable wall which hindered her from escaping from this labyrinth, which made her believe that her condition differed in nothing from the pain of loss which the damned suffer in the privation of the beatific vision.  As death is the termination of misfortunes to the miserable, she tried to soften the rigor of the terrible pains she suffered by the hope of dying soon; but instantly reflecting that her soul was immortal, and that her death, which is so great a relief to others, would not be the end of her sorrows, this thought raised fears which would have been capable of throwing her into despair; if that same Providence of God which permitted these desolations, had not preserved her from it.

 

This darkness and trouble of mind tormented her for fifteen years, at least an hour and a half every day; her efforts to banish them from her mind only made them more importunate; and this afflicted Rose found sharp thorns within herself, which lacerated her soul, from the belief she felt that she was abandoned by God.

 

In fine, the evil spirits filled her imagination with frightful spectres, and troubled her mind by such fearful visions, that though this courageous virgin could calmly bear the most insupportable pain, still she never could accustom herself to this sort of trial, the bare thought of which was so terrible to her, that when she felt the hour of her sufferings drawing near, she threw herself on the ground, at the feet of Jesus Christ, and, bathed in tears, she earnestly besought Him not to oblige her to drink this chalice of the horror and bitterness, offering herself to the most cruel sort of death, which she would infinitely prefer, to the ceasing to love Him one moment; because God being to her what the soul is to the body, she thought herself deprived every day of that supernatural and divine life during these storms; knowing, however, that it was by the will of God she suffered these pains, she adored it with respect, and said to Him, with a mind resigned to the orders of His Providence, “Lord, may thy will be done, not mine; I abandon myself to Thy Divine dispensations.”  These anxieties, this darkness, and this species of desolation, exercised the judgment of the most famous theologians of Lima, and there were very few who gave a decided opinion; some believed that she was deluded, or that what passed in her mind was the effect of her long watchings; others, that they were illusions of the devil, which disturbed her imagination; others again attributed them to the heavy vapors which her great abstinence caused to mount from her stomach to her brain.

 

She listened to them humbly, and modestly said, that the little knowledge they had of her state was the effect of her stupidity, which could not explain how these things passed in her interior.  She did not fail to attempt sometimes, in order to obey them, to give them some idea of her pains by comparisons; but when she had compared them to fire, which seemed most properly to express their violence, she frankly confessed that there was no relation between what she suffered in her soul, and the pain which the activity of that element causes.

 

When she spoke of her desolations, she said that she seemed to see herself very remote from God by a great dissimilarity, that she felt overcome by her timidity, and in these sorrowful moments she imagined herself overwhelmed by the tempest, of which the royal prophet speaks, which these sad thoughts raised in her soul;  she added, that during this darkness, she wished to become anathema, that is, separated from Jesus Christ her God and her Spouse; she said, in fine, that these representations afflicted her to that degree, that they would have each day caused her death, if God had not preserved her life by a continual miracle.  She was not t he only soul whom Almighty God has tried in this terrible manner: we read the same thing of S. Catherine of Sienna; and the history of the blessed Henry Suso, religious of the Order of Friar Preachers, relates that the Son of God often appeared to him under the form of a judge, with an inflamed countenance, and eyes sparkling with anger, pronouncing, with a voice of thunder, these overwhelming words: “Go, ye cursed, into everlasting flames.”

 

Being asked if, after being separated from God, and suffering this eclipse of the Divine Sun in her souls, she did not receive from Him some consolation; she answered, that God entered again into her mind with so brilliant a light, and enkindled so great a love in her will, that it became inflamed with ardor; after which she re-entered the bosom of God, and was therein so perfectly transformed into her Beloved, and so confirmed in His grace, that not all the temptations of the flesh, the devils, or men, could ever separate her from his love.

 

Though God had revealed to her, and had clearly shown her that she was in the sure way of salvation and perfection, still, as she was very humble, she never refused to appear before those who wished to examine her vocation and manner of life.  Besides her confessor, who studied her for a long time, many persons celebrated for their learning and piety, as well of the Order of Friar Preachers, as of the Society of Jesus, and even the famous Doctor John of Castile, a man very will versed in the mystical life, and who composed an excellent treatise upon it, have carefully examined all that passed in her interior, and after conferred together several times on her life, and the extraordinary thing which happened to her, they have remarked, First, that from her infancy she experienced ardent desires of loving God alone, and so powerful an attraction to prayer, that she found nothing sweeter than to entertain herself with God by prayer, and to raise her mind incessantly to the contemplation of heavenly things.  Secondly, that till the age of twelve years she had pursued different methods in prayer, which had all raised her to a high degree of spirituality.  Thirdly, that her whole life was a continual exercise of patience under the crosses she had suffered in every way, and from the delicacy of her body, her abstinence, her want of sleep, and her sicknesses.  Fourthly, that she had attained so perfect a union with God, that she could not turn her thoughts from Him, even if she had wished to apply them to something else; hence, she was never diverted from Him by her exterior occupations, nor by the violence of her illness, which caused her excessive pain.  They remarked that Almighty God was so present to her in all the faculties of her soul, and excited in her so sweet a hope of being favored with His graces, that it was quite impossible for her to find any pleasure on earth, except in the continual idea she had of His mercies.

 

Being asked if she had ever read books treating of mystical theology, she answered humbly, that she was not aware that there were any bearing this title, or which taught the method of prayer which conducts to the unitive life.  When she was asked what efforts she had made to resist her evil inclinations, she answered, that, by the grace of God, she did not remember to have ever found any opposition in her soul to virtue; that, on the contrary, she had felt from her infancy a strong inclination to piety, which had made her joyously embrace its practice.  “I do not mean,” she said, “that I have not perceived in myself involuntary movements; but as soon as I applied my mind to the presence of God, they vanished so promptly that I had not usually time to resist them.” They wished further to know if she did not find some trifling satisfaction in earthly things, when her mind became a little relaxed from its violent application to God in prayer; she said that she could not possibly take the least pleasure in t hem, and that she suffered inconceivable pain when her mind was a moment unoccupied with God.

 

These divines, after several conferences, concluded that her life was the work of God; that she suffered, in some degree, the torments which the souls in purgatory endure by these representations, which oppressed her with fear, and threw her into a sort of agony; and that God permitted, by a dispensation of His Providence, that she should be tormented with these apprehensions of hell, and that her understanding should be obscured by this darkness, in order to keep her humble, and to purify her love more and more by these trials.

 

These doctors, having commanded her in virtue of obedience, to explain to them the state in which she was after this dryness and terrible desolation, she blushed at this order; fear and modesty showed evidently, by the color that rose to her face, the pain she felt in declaring secrets which had god alone for witness; she obeyed, but with so much confusion that her voice faltered as she declared, that after this storm Jesus Christ appeared visibly to her, now as a child, again as of thirty years of age; that the Blessed Virgin came usually to console her, with so amiable a countenance, t hat her looks spread consolation over her interior.

 

She added, that these frequent visions worked in her three good effects.  First, an abundance of joy, which made her insensible to all the pleasures of the world.  Secondly, a love and an attachment to God, which separated her entirely from creatures.  Thirdly, so admirable a tranquility of the passions, that she knew nothing on earth capable of disturbing their peace; whence they conjectured that she was in a sure way of great perfection.  Some other theologians, from the account they had heard of the profound manner in which she spoke of the inscrutable mystery of the Trinity of the Divine Persons, of the hypostatical union of the Word with the human nature, of the Book of Life, predestination, nature, and grace, and other mysteries of faith, had the curiosity to converse with her on these sublime subjects; after a long conference with her, they confessed that they had never known a more enlightened soul, and that our Saint had not attained the knowledge of these mysteries by the vivacity of her mind, nor by her application to study; but that God had given her the understanding of them by an infused knowledge, and that she was only the organ of the Holy Ghost when she spake of these elevated truths of religion.

 

On thing which surprised the most experienced in the mystical life was, that she had attained the unitive life with very little exercise of the laborious practices fo the purgative; and they remarked with astonishment a sort of combat between God and her, without being able to determine whether God was more occupied in seeking in the secrets of His wisdom the means of exercising her by suffering, than she was disposed to suffer them for His love; for she showed an incredible avidity for crosses, and an invincible patience, which rendered her victorious over her trials, and over every affliction which Almighty God sent to exercise her love and fidelity.  Hence the most learned and the greatest masters in a spiritual life, who had assembled to examine her, made known publicly that she was governed by the Spirit of God, and that she acted by the impulse of grace in her conduct. 

 

Louisa of Melgarcyo, a lady of known sanctity, was so persuaded of this, that every time she met the blessed Rose she threw herself on her knees before her, notwithstanding the resistance her modesty made to prevent her; and when our Saint had passed on, this virtuous woman noticed where her feet had trod in walking, and kissed the traces with respect and veneration.

 



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Text from the Fr. Faber translation, Peter F. Cunningham, fourth edition, 1855

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