INTRODUCTION TO THE LIFE OF THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN
GIVING THE REASON FOR WRITING IT, AND EXPLAINING OTHERCIRCUMSTANCES IN CONNECTION THEREWITH.
1.I should not be astonished to hear myself condemnedas audacious, foolhardy and presumptuous by any person who will begin torealize (if realized it can be) that I, a simple woman, who is of herself butsheer weakness and ignorance and who is, on account of her sins, most unworthy,has resolved and attempted to write of divine and supernatural things.
This condemnation will be the more justified in these,our present times, in which the holy Church, our mother, is so abundantlysupplied with teachers and holy men, so rich in doctrines of the holy Fathersand Doctors;
in this our most opportune age, when even prudent andwise persons, full of holy zeal in the spiritual life, are disturbed andtroubled at the least mention of a higher life, looking upon visions andrevelations as most suspicious and dangerous paths for the pursuit of Christianperfection.
If no excuse can be found for such an enterprise initself, or even for attempting things that are so far above and superior towhat man can hope to compass, and so far beyond all human capacities, then wecan only conclude that to undertake them is either a sign of perverse judgmentor the result of an activity far surpassing all the human power.
2.As faithful children of the holy Church we mustconfess that all the mortals, not only with the use of all their naturalpowers,
but with the simultaneous use of all the common andordinary graces, are but incapable and, as it were, mute and ignorant weaklingsfor so difficult an undertaking as to explain and describe the hidden mysteriesand magnificent sacraments which the powerful arm of the Most High has wroughtin that Creature whom, as his Mother,
He has designed to be an immense ocean of grace andprivilege and the Depositary of the greatest treasures of the Divinity.
How incapable must our weakness acknowledge itself tobe, when even the angelic spirits confess that words fail them when attemptingto describe that which is so far above their thoughts and capacities.
The life of this Phoenix among the works of God is abook so sealed up that none is found among all the creatures of heaven andearth, worthy to open it (Apoc. 4, 3).
It is evident then, that only the powerful Lord canunseal it; He who made Her more perfect than all the creatures; or She herself,the Mistress, our Queen and Mother, who was worthy to receive and properly toappreciate her ineffable gifts.
It is in her power to select suitable instruments, andsuch as for her glory seem capable of manifesting these gifts in theproportion, at the time, and in the manner serviceable to her Onlybegotten Son.
3. I wouldwillingly maintain that these instruments can be no other than the teachers andlearned saints of the Catholic Church, or the doctors of the schools, who haveall taught the way of truth and life.
But the thoughts and the judgments of the Most High areexalted as much above out own as heaven is exalted above the earth and no oneknows his mind and no one can counsel Him in his works (Rom. 11, 34) ; He it isthat holds the scales of the sanctuary in his hands (Apoc. 6,5), and who weighsthe winds (Job 28, 25); who grasps in his hands all the orbs (Is. 40, 12), andwho, by the equity of his most holy counsels, disposes of all things withweight and measure (Wis. 11, 21), assigning to each one opportune time andplace.
He dispenses the light of wisdom (Ecclus. 24, 37) andby his most equitable bounty He distributes it, and no one can ascend to theheavens to draw it down (Baruch 3, 29), or fetch it from the clouds, or knowits ways or investigate the hidden paths thereof (Baruch 3, 31).
He alone observes it as it is in itself, and transfusesit as the vapor and emanation of his immense charity (Wis. 7, 25) as thebrightness of his eternal light, as the flawless reflection and image of hiseternal bounty, through holy souls among the nations in order to make themfriends of the Most High and constitute them as Prophets (Wis. 7, 27).
The Lord alone knows why and for what purpose He thusprepared me, the last of his creatures; why He thus called and raised me,obliged and compelled me, to write the life of his most holy Mother, our Queenand Lady.
4. It isbeyond the prudent surmise of any man that, without this influence and power ofthe Most High, the thought of such a work should enter into a human heart, orsuch an enterprise should take shape in my mind.
For I acknowledge and confess myself to be a weakwoman, wanting in all virtue; therefore, it should be far from my thoughts toapproach such a work, but equally as far from me to refuse it on my ownaccount.
In order that a just estimate may be had in this matterI will mention in simple truth something of that which happened to me regardingthis history.
5 In the eighth year after the foundation of thisconvent, in the twenty-fifth of my life, obedience imposed upon me the officewhich I unworthily hold at the present day, namely to be the abbess of thisconvent.
I found myself much troubled, sorrowful anddiscouraged, because neither my age nor my inclinations were such as arerequisite for governing and commanding, but they were rather such as befittedone who should be governed and obey.
I knew also, that in order to invest me with thisoffice a dispensation had been obtained.
On account of these and other just reasons, the terrorswith which the Most High has crucified me during all my life, were muchaugmented.
In addition thereto God left me in dreadful doubtwhether I was on the secure path or whether I should obtain or lose hisfriendship and grace.
6. In thistribulation I cried to the Lord with all my heart that He help me and if it behis will that I should be freed from this danger and burden.
Although it is true that the Lord had prepared mesometime beforehand and commanded me to accept the office, and although when Itried to excuse myself on account of my pusillanimity, He always consoled meand reiterated his command, I nevertheless did not cease my petitions, butrather augmented them.
For I perceived and understood in the Lord that,although He showed this to be his holy will, which I could not hinder, yet Iwas aware at the same time that he left me free to retire and resist, and, if Iwished, to act according to my weakness as a creature and in the consciousnessof my total insufficiency; such is the prudence of the Lord in his dealingswith men.
Relying on this kindness of the Lord, I increased myefforts to be relieved from this evident danger, which is so little estimatedby our human nature with its bad habits and disorderly passions.
The Lord, however, repeated continually that it was hiswill and He consoled me, admonishing me through his holy angels to obey.
7. I fled inthis affliction to our Queen and Lady as to my only refuge in all troubles, andafter I had manifested to Her my way of life and my desires, She deigned toanswer me in these sweetest of words:
“My daughter,console thyself and do not be disturbed in thy heart on account of this labor; preparethyself for it and I will be thy Mother and Superior, whom thou shalt obey; andthe same I will be to thy subjects.
I will supplement thy deficiencies and thou shalt be myagent, through whom the will of my Son and my God shall be fulfilled.
In all thy temptations and troubles thou shalt takerefuge with me, confer about them with me, and take the advice, which I willgive thee in all things.
Obey me, and I will favor thee and will continue to beattentive to thy affliction.”
These were the words of the Queen, as consoling as theywere soothing to my soul.
From that day on the Mother of mercy multiplied hermercies toward me, her slave; for She became more intimate with me andcontinued her intercourse with my soul, receiving me, listening to me, teachingme with ineffable condescension, giving me counsel and encouragement in myaffliction, filling my soul with the light and knowledge of eternal life andcommanding me to renew the vows of my profession in her presence. vowsprofession
Finally this our most amiable Mother and Lady revealedHerself still more fully to her slave, withdrawing the veil from the hiddensacraments and magnificent mysteries which are contained, though unknown tomortals, in her most holy life.
And, although this blessed and supernatural light wasuninterrupted, and especially clear on her festival days and on other occasionswhen I was instructed in many mysteries; yet it was not so full,frequent andclear as that which was afterwards vouchsafed to me when She added the commandthat I write the history of her life according as her Majesty herself shoulddictate and inspire me.
Particularly on one of these festivals of the most holyMary the Most High informed me that He had in reserve many hidden sacramentsand blessings, which He had conferred upon this His heavenly Mother in the daysof her pilgrimage and that it was His intention to manifest them to me, inorder that I might write them down according to her guidance.
This will of the Most High, though I resisted it, wascontinually present to my mind for the space of ten years, until I attemptedthe first writing of this divine history.
8.Consulting about my doubts with the holy princes andangels, whom the Most High had appointed to direct this work of writing thehistory of our Queen, and manifesting to them how great was my disturbance andaffliction of heart and how stuttering and mute was my tongue for such anarduous task, they replied over and over again that it was the will of the MostHigh that I write the life of his most pure Mother and our Mistress.
On one day especially, when I made many objections anddeclared to them my difficulties, and my incapability and great fears, theyspoke to me these words:
“With goodreason thou fearest and art disturbed, O soul, doubtest and hesitatest in amatter, where we angels ourselves would do the same, as considering ourselvesunable worthily to describe the high and magnificent doings of the Omnipotentin the Mother of Piety and our own Queen.
But remember, dearest soul, that the firmament, thewhole machinery of the world and all things created will sooner fail, than thewords of the Most High Many times He has promised to his creatures, and in theholy Scriptures it is recorded, that the obedient man shall speak of victoriesover his enemies and shall not be reprehensible in obeying (Prov. 21, 28).
And when He created the first man and gave him thecommand not to eat of the tree of knowledge, he established the virtue ofobedience, and swearing He swore, in order to give greater assurance to man.
For the Lord has repeatedly given such an oath; forinstance, when He promised to Abraham that the Messias should descend from hisrace, He added thereto the assurance of an oath (Gen. 22, 16) ; the same He didwhen He created the first man, assuring him that the obedient shall not err.
He also repeated this oath, when He ordained that hismost holy Son should die (Luke 1, 73) ; and He gave a like assurance to menthat they, who should obey this second Adam, imitating Him in the obedience, bywhich He restored what the first lost through his disobedience, shall liveforever and that the enemy shall have no part in them.
Remember, Mary, that all obedience takes its rise fromGod as from its first and principal source, and we angels obey the power of hisdivine right hand and his most just will.
We cannot contravene or ignore it, because we see theimmutable being of God face to face and we perceive that his will is holy, pureand true, most equitable and just.
Now this certainty, which we angels possess through thebeatific vision, you mortals also possess in its proper proportion as wayfarersthrough the words of the Lord concerning your prelates and superiors : “He whohears you, hears Me; and who obeys you, obeys Me.” (Luke 10, 16).
Now since obedience is rendered on account of God, whois the principal Cause and who is the Superior of all, it is befitting to hisalmighty Providence that He take the consequences of obedience, whenever thatwhich is commanded is not in itself sinful.
Accordingly the Lord assures us of these things by anoath, and He will sooner cease to exist, though this is impossible, than thatHe will fail in his word.
In the same way as the children proceed from theirparents, and all the living from Adam, multiplied from his natural being in hisposterity; so also all superiors are constituted by God as by the supreme Lordon whose account we yield obedience to them; human beings to their livingsuperiors, we angels to our higher hierarchies of the same nature, and allbeings together, in their superiors, obey the eternal God.
Remember now, that all of these have directed andcommanded thee to do that, about which thou still hesitatest; if thou nowshouldst begin to write by mistake, intending thereby to fulfill his commandsin obedience, then the Most High would do with thy pen the same as He did withthe knife of Abraham, when he was about to sacrifice his son Isaac, for on thatoccasion the Lord commanded one of us angels to withhold the arm and the knife.
He did not thus command us to withhold thy pen, but hasordered us with lightest breath to speed it on, and while gazing on hisMajesty, to direct and assist thee by illuminating thy intellect.”
9. Suchencouragement and instruction my holy angels and lords gave me at this time. Onmany other occasions the prince saint Michael informed me of the same wish andcommand of the Most High.
By the continual enlightenments, favors andinstructions of this great prince, I have understood great sacraments andmysteries of the Lord and of the Queen of heaven; for this angel was one ofthose, who guarded and assisted Her and who were delegated from the angelicchoirs, as I will relate in its place (Part I, 201-206).
He is at the same time the general patron and protectorof the holy Church. He was a special witness and faithful minister of themysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption. This I have often heard of saintMichael himself, who showed me singular favors in my troubles and dangers, andhas promised me his assistance and direction in this undertaking.
10. In additionto all this and other facts, which need not here be mentioned, and in additionto what I shall say farther on, the Lord has directly, in his own person,commanded and manifested to me his will many times, and in words which I shallpresently repeat.
He said to me one day on the festival of the Presentationof most holy Mary in the temple:
“My spouse, manymysteries pertaining to my Mother and the saints have been made manifest in theChurch militant; but many are still hidden, especially the interior secrets oftheir lives, and these I wish now to make known; and I desire thee to put themdown in writing according as thou art directed by the most pure Mary.
I will reveal and explain them to thee; for until now Ihave, according to the hidden designs of my wisdom, kept them in reserve,because the time for revealing them was not befitting or opportune to myProvidence. Now, however, it is, and it is my will that thou write. Obey, soul!”
11. All thesefacts which I have mentioned, and many more which I could mention, would nothave been urgent enough to rouse my will to an enterprise so arduous and soforeign to my condition, if to them had not been added the motive of obedienceto my superiors, who are set to govern my soul and teach me the way of truth.
For certainly my mistrusts and fears were not sounimportant as to permit me to come to a full decision without their commandsin so great a matter, when in resolving upon others, also supernatural andvastly less difficult, I rely so much on the guidance of obedience.
As an ignorant woman I have always sought thisnorthstar, for it is a duty incumbent on all to test all things, even thoughthey seem to be most noble and excellent beyond suspicion, by the approbationof the teachers and ministers of the holy Church.
Such assurance I have been solicitous to procure forthe direction of my soul, and more particularly in this undertaking of writingthe life of the Queen of heaven.
I have frequently tried to prevent my superiors frombeing moved by any accounts of my interior experiences, disguising, as much asI could, many things, and in tears begging the Lord to enlighten them and tofill them with mistrust against me, to watch over them lest they be deceived orlest they permit me to be deceived or misdirected.
Many times I have desired that the very thought ofallowing me to engage in this enterprise would fade from their minds.
12. I will alsoconfess that the demon, availing himself of my natural dispositions and of myfears, has made great efforts to hinder this work by seeking to terrify andafflict me.
He would no doubt have succeeded in keeping me from itif the zeal and persistence of my superiors had not counteracted my cowardice.
In this persecution the Lord, the most pure Virgin andthe holy angels often took occasion to renew their enlightenment, their tokensand wonders.
Nevertheless, in spite of all this, I deferred, or tospeak more appropriately, I resisted this undertaking many years; I refusedcompliance, as I will describe further on, not having the boldness to attemptthe execution of something so far above all my powers.
And I believe that this was not without specialprovidence of his Majesty; for in the course of those years so many things havehappened to me, and I may say, so many mysterious and various difficultiesintervened, that I would not have been able to preserve the tranquillity andquiet of spirit, which is necessary for retaining the proper light andinformation; for not in all states of mind, though they are of the highest andmost advanced, can the soul engage in that exalted activity which is necessaryto correspond to such exquisite and delicate in fluences.
In addition to this, there was still another reason,namely: During this protracted delay I could inform myself and assure myself ofthe truth of these things not only by means of the new enlightenment, whichgrew as time passed on, and by the prudence which experience gives, but also bythe persevering insistence of the Lord, of the holy angels and of my superiors,under whose obedience I lived.
Likewise an opportunity was given me to quiet my fearsand misgivings, to overcome my cowardice and perplexity, and to trust that tothe Lord, which I would not trust to my weakness.
13. Confidingthen in the great virtue of obedience, I resolved in the name of the Lord andof my Queen and Mistress to lay aside my reluctance.
I call this virtue great, not only because by it themost noble activities in the faculties of a creature, namely the mind, thejudgment and free will, are offered as a holocaust to the Lord; but alsobecause no other virtue ever assures success more unfailingly than obedience;for by it the creature then does not operate of itself alone, but also as aninstrument of him that governs and commands.
This was the assurance of Abraham, when he overcame theforce of the natural love for his son Isaac (Gen. 22, 3).
And if it was sufficient for such an act, andsufficient to detain the sun and the heavens in their swift course (Josue 10,13), it can certainly be sufficient to influence the movement of the earth.
Perchance if the hand of Oza had been guided byobedience, he would perhaps not have been punished as presumptuous in touchingthe ark.
Well do I know that I am more unworthy than Oza instretching out my hand to touch, not the lifeless and figurative ark of the oldcovenant, but the living Ark of the New Testament, which contained the manna ofthe Divinity, the source of grace and the New Law.
But if I remain silent, I fear with good reason todisobey most high commands, and I could exclaim with Isaias: “Woe is me becauseI kept my peace!” (Is. 6, 5).
Therefore, O my Queen and Lady, it is better that thybenignest goodness and mercy and the blessings of thy liberal hand should shineforth through my base and unworthy efforts ; it is better that I shouldexperience thy blessings in obeying thy commands, than that I should fall intothy displeasure.
It will be a work of thy clemency, O purest Mother, toraise the poor from the earth and to execute through a weak and unfitinstrument, a work so difficult; for thereby Thou shalt magnify thycondescension and the graces which thy most holy Son communicates to Thee.
Moreover Thou thereby shalt exclude that deceitfulpresumption, which might make us imagine that by human efforts, or by earthlyprudence, or by the force and authority of deep discussion, this work isaccomplished.
Thou thereby showest, that by divine virtue Thouawakenest anew the hearts of the faithful, drawing them toward Thee, Thou fountainof kindness and mercy.
Speak therefore, O Lady, that thy servant may hear withan ardent desire fully to obey Thee (I Kings 3, 19).
But how can my desires ever reach or equal myindebtedness?
A befitting response on my part will be impossible, butif it were possible, I would desire to give it.
O powerful and exalted Queen, fulfill thy promises bymanifesting to me thy graces and attributes, in order that thy greatness may bemade known and heralded through the nations and generations.
Speak, O Lady, for thy servant heareth; speak andmagnify the Most High in the powerful and wonderful works, which his right handperformed for Thee in thy most profound humility.
Let them flow from the hollow of his hands filled withhyacinths into thine (Cant. 5, 14), and from thine to thy devout servants, inorder that the angels may bless Him, the just magnify Him, and the sinners seekHim.
Let all of them see the example of thy highest sanctityand purity, and by the grace of thy most holy Son, let me be favored with thismirror and efficacious rule, by which I can set my life in order.
For this is to be the principal purpose and firstobject of my solicitude in writing thy life.
This Thou hast repeatedly intimated to me,condescending to offer me a living pattern and a mirror without flaw, in whichI should see and according to which I should adorn my soul, so as to becomeworthy to be thy daughter and the bride of thy most holy Son.
14. This shall bemy whole object and intention; and therefore I shall not write as a teacher,but as a disciple; not as one instructing, but as one trying to learn, knowingthat it is the duty of women to be silent in the holy Church, and to listen tothe teachers (I Cor. 14, 34).
But as an instrument of the Queen of heaven I willdeclare what She deigns to teach me and whatever She commands me; for all thesouls are capable of receiving the Spirit, which her divine Son has promised topour out over men of all conditions (Joel 2, 28).
The souls are also able to communicate it in abefitting manner, whenever a higher authority acting according to thedispensations of Christ’s Church so disposes.
I am now convinced that the Church has authorized thishistory through my superiors.
That I should err is possible, and to an ignorantwoman, natural; but then I err, while obeying and not acting of my own freewill; thus I remit myself and subject myself to those who are my guides and tothe correction of the holy Catholic Church, to whose ministers I fly in all mydifficulties.
And I wish that my superior, teacher and confessor be awitness and a censor of this doctrine, which I receive, and also a severe andvigilant judge of the manner in which I put it into practice, or fail in thefulfilling of the obligations consequent upon this blessing.
15. Pursuant tothe will of the Lord and the command of obedience, I have written for thesecond time this heavenly history; for during the first writing of it, thoughthe light by which I perceived the mysteries was abundant and fruitful inproportion as my shortcomings were great, my tongue was unequal to the task offinding the proper terms, and my pen not swift enough for a full statement.
I omitted some things, and with the lapse of time andby the aid of new enlightenments, I found myself better prepared to write atthis second time Nevertheless there always remains much of what I understoodand have seen, which I must leave unsaid; since to say all will never bepossible.
Besides these reasons, there was another known to me inthe Lord, namely; That in my first writing my mind was much hindered fromattending to the matter and arrangement of this work by my temptations andgreat fears.
They raised such tempests of contrary thoughts andsuggestions within me, that, deeming it the greatest presumption to haveattempted such an arduous task, I concluded to burn it.
And I believe that this did not happen without thepermission of the Lord, for in the turbulency of my soul I could not presentmyself in a state entirely befitting and desirable to the Lord for writing andengraving into my heart and spirit his doctrine, as He commands me to do nowand as can be seen from the following event.
16. On one ofthe festival days of the Purification of Our Lady, after having received themost holy Sacrament, I wished to celebrate this holy festival,which was the anniversaryof my profession, with many acts of thanksgiving and of total resignation tothe Most High,who without any merits of mine had chosen me as His spouse.
While I was thus exciting these affections, I felt inmy interior a most powerful change accompanied by abundant light which raisedme and urged me strongly and sweetly toward the knowledge of the essence ofGod, His goodness, perfections and attributes, and to the disclosing of my ownmisery (Wis. 8, 1).
And these different things, which were placed before myunderstanding at one and the same time, produced in me various effects:
The first was that all the attention of my mind and allmy aspirations were raised on high; the other effect was, that I was humbled inmind to the very dust, in such a way that it seemed to take away my own existence.
At the same time I felt a most vehement sorrow andcontrition for my grievous sins, joined to the determination to amend and torenounce all worldly things, aspiring instead toward complete love of God.
In these affects I remained as if annihilated, and thegreatest pain seemed but consolation, and death, but life.
The Lord having pity on my faintness, in sheer mercy,spoke to me:
“Be notdismayed, my daughter and spouse, for in order to pardon, to wash and to purifythee from thy sins, I will apply my infinite merits and the blood, which I shedfor thee; animate thyself to desire all perfection in imitation of the life ofthe most holy Mary.
Write it a second time in order that thou mayest supplywhat was wanting and impress her doctrines on thy heart.
Do not again irritate my justice, nor show thyselfthankless for my mercy by burning what thou shalt have written, lest myindignation deprive thee of the light which, without thy merits, thou hastreceived for the manifestation of these mysteries.”
17. Iimmediately thereupon saw the Mother of God, who also spoke to me: “Mydaughter, as yet thou hast not derived becoming fruit for thy soul from thetree of life, which was offered thee in the writing of my history, nor didstthou enter into the substance of its contents.
Thou hast scarcely yet thought of this hidden manna,nor hast thou attained that perfect and ultimate preparation, which theAlmighty requires in order to engrave and imprint, in a proper manner, myvirtues into thy soul.
I am to give thee the befitting qualities andperfections for that which the divine right hand is to accomplish in thee.
I have asked Him that, through my intercession andthrough the abundant graces conferred upon me, I be permitted to adorn thee andcompose thy soul, so that thou mayest turn again to the writing of my life withless attention to the material and more to the spiritual and substantial partof it.
Remove the hindrances which oppose the currents ofdivine grace flowing to thee from the Almighty through me and make thyselfcapable of readily accepting the full portion assigned to thee by the divinewill.
See that thou do not curtail or limit by thyshortcomings and imperfections.”
Thereupon I saw that the divine Mother clothed me in agarment whiter than the snow and more shining than the sun; and She girded mewith a most precious girdle and said:
“This is aparticipation of my purity.”
I also asked for the infused science of the Lord, whichshould serve me as most beautiful hair for my adornment and for other preciousgifts and presents, the value of which I saw and knew was great, but which Iwas not able fully to estimate.
After having thus adorned me, the heavenly Lady said:“Work faithfully and earnestly to imitate me and to be my most perfectdaughter, engendered of my spirit, nourished at my breast.
I give thee my blessing, in order that in my name andunder my direction and assistance thou mayest again resume thy writing.”
18. The whole ofthis holy life of Mary is divided, for greater perspicuity, into three parts.