St. Catherine of Bologna was a woman who lived in the fifteenth century. In addition to the Sacraments, Prayer, and the Holy Intercession of the Saints like the Blessed Virgin Mary, she summarized for her sisters the seven spiritual weapons which she used to combat the flesh, the devil, and the allurements of the world.
They are summarized as follows:
1. The first weapon I call zeal, that is solicitude in doing good, since the Holy Scripture condemns those who are negligent and lukewarm in the way of God (Apocalypse 3.15-16).
2. The second weapon is mistrust of self, that is, to believe firmly and without doubt that one could never do anything good by oneself, as Christ Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15.5).
3.. The third weapon is to put one’s trust in God and for love of him to fiercely wage battle with great readiness of spirit against the devil and against the world and one’s own flesh which is given one in order that it might serve the spirit.
4. The fourth is the memory of the glorious pilgrimage of that immaculate lamb, Christ Jesus, and especially his most holy death and passion, keeping always before the eyes of our minds the presence of his most chaste and virginal humanity.
5. The fifth weapon is to remind oneself that we must die.
6. The sixth weapon is the memory of the goods of paradise which are prepared for those who lawfully struggle by abandoning all the vain pleasures of the present life in accord with the saying of the most holy doctor Saint Augustine that it is impossible to enjoy present goods and future ones too.
7. The seventh weapon with which we can conquer our enemies is the memory of Holy Scripture which we must carry in our hearts and from which, as from a most devoted mother, we must take counsel in the things we have to do.
For an in depth analysis of each of these, please read below.
[I] Of the First Weapon
(1) The first weapon I call zeal, that is solicitude in doing good, since the Holy Scripture condemns those who are negligent and lukewarm in the way of God (Apoc 3.15-16). The office of the Holy Spirit is to inspire in us good inspirations, while our duty is to accept them and put them into operation by waging continual violence against our sensuality which always invites us to what is contrary to what the spirit wills. (2) Therefore, it is necessary to resist it with true diligence and not to let the time granted to us pass by without acquiring the fruit of good works, as it is written: Whoever wishes to go up, let him rest not from thoughts, from speaking works and doing deeds, and always exerting himself in God but with discretion, so that when our adversary, like a wicked traitor, assails us from ambush, we can defend ourselves. (3) By “from ambush” I mean, when under the appearance of good he wishes to kill you, for there is as much danger in too much as in too little. And so I tell you “with discretion,” aware that this virtue establishes and perfects all the other virtues according to what was said by the glorious teacher of the ancient holy fathers, that is, St. Antonio of Vienna.(4) So it is proper for us to exercise with true discretion all the spiritual and temporal virtues. However, when the enemy sees that he cannot impede the servant of Christ from doing good, he will seek to entice her with doing too much. So exercise all the virtues in proper measure that the weapon of true and diligent discretion may be exercised by us for our salvation and for the praise of Christ. Amen.
[II] Of the Second Weapon
(1) The second weapon is mistrust of self, that is, to believe firmly and without doubt that one could never do anything good by oneself, as Christ Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing” (Jo 15.5). Nor could one resist successfully the fury of the infernal enemies for their cunning wickedness. And if someone does confide in her own wisdom and will not do this, let her know for certain that by just judgment she will fall into great ruin and let her be aware that this enemy is more malicious than others even in this wickedness. (2) And therefore, the second weapon for fighting against this enemy tells one not to trust in oneself, and blessed is she who has this noble quality in herself. And to the extent that the person is in a greater state of virtue or exercises the office of prelate, the more her need for it. (3) I received this example from an old and very proven religious who said that when he was a prelate, whenever he was about to begin some task pertaining to his office of governing the monastery, if he did it according to his inclination, God most often allowed some anxiety or tribulation; and if on the contrary, he did it according to the counsel and inclination of the majority of his subjects, it always turned out well and often he found himself consoled. (4) Now, then, how could the subject, especially one newly entered into religion, have such presumption that she would want to live by her own lights and her foolish fervor and not rather by the counsel and will of her superior and mistress so that the virtue of holy humility might shine in her and the weapon of self-diffidence might be wielded by her. To the praise of Christ. Amen.
[III] Of The Third Weapon.
The third weapon is to put one’s trust in God and for love of him to fiercely wage battle with great readiness of spirit against the devil and against the world and one’s own flesh which is given one in order that it might serve the spirit. And as we stand triumphant with the feet of our affectivity on these enemies, we trust in God with firm hope that he will give us his grace abundantly, by which we will have complete victory over all our enemies and will know that he does not abandon those who hope in him. (2) Whenever the servant and spouse of Christ, by the permission of God, finds herself in a grave and dangerous storm, she cries from her heart toward heaven, saying: “God do not abandon me.” Then, however much she feared and doubted whether she was abandoned, she will be raised up by the divine and hidden mystery to the highest perfection with God. (3) We have an example of this in his only Son, when, at the point of a painful and bitter death, he cried out, saying: “Father, why have you abandoned me?” (Mt 27.46). (4) This happened because the divine, united inseparably to him, really abandoned the human and sensitive part in his nature. This was the aim of justice, so that the painful obedience of Christ (Ro 5.19) would cancel the pleasure of the disobedience of our first father. (5) Returning to our theme, the servant of Christ does not fear abandonment whatever it might seem sometimes, for she knows that God our eternal Father will not allow this to happen just as he did not allow it to happen to his own Son. Even then, when she finds herself in great straits and tribulation, she will increase her trust in the divine aid, recalling the sweet promise that he made to us through the mouth of the prophet: “With him I am in tribulation; I will snatch him up and glorify him” (Ps 91.15). (6) Who would not want to be troubled in order to have so sweet and faithful a companion, who offers to be with his faithful in time of adversity? Here we have all the more cause to want more strongly to be troubled than consoled, and in this, to hold to firm hope; that is the third weapon we are to employ, entrusting ourselves to God. To the praise of Christ. Amen.
[IV] Of the Fourth Weapon.
(1) The fourth is the memory of the glorious pilgrimage of that immaculate lamb, Christ Jesus, and especially his most holy death and passion, keeping always before the eyes of our minds the presence of his most chaste and virginal humanity. This is the best means for winning each battle, and without it, we will not achieve victory over our enemies. Every other weapon will achieve little without this one which surpasses all the rest. (2) O most glorious passion and cure for all our wounds. O mother most faithful, who lead your children to the heavenly Father. O true and gentle refuge in all adversities. O supportive nurse who guide child-like minds to the heights of perfection. O refulgent mirror, who illumine those who look at you and recognize their deformities. O impenetrable shield who most smartly defend those who hide behind you. O manna37 suffused with every fulsome sweetness, you are the one who guards those who love you from every deadly poison. (3) O ladder most high who raise up to infinite goods those who fly upward upon you. O true and restorative hospice for pilgrim souls. O ever flowing font who provide drink for the thirsty who are inflamed for you. O abundant sea for those who row on you in their derelict boat. O sweet olive tree who stretch your branches through all the universe. O spouse, gentle to the soul which is always in love with you and does not look toward others. (4) And so exercise yourselves untiringly in this, dearest and kindest sisters and gaze upon yourselves in his radiant splendor so that, in this way, you can conserve the beauty of your souls. Truly this passion is that wise mistress who will lead you, beloved novices, to the beauty of all the virtues, and in this way, you will attain the mantle of victory. To the praise of Christ. Amen.
[V] Of the Fifth Weapon
(1) The fifth weapon is to remind oneself that we must die. This time is called the time of mercy in which God looks down day after day so that we can amend our lives from good to better. If we do not do this, we will have to render account, not only of the evils we have done, but also of the goods left undone by our negligence. And so Paul the glorious apostle spoke well: “Let us do good while we have time” (Gal 6.10). (2) So often think about death and always stand ready for it, for we know neither the day nor the hour when the most strict judge will command us to render account of the talent of good will granted to us so we could exercise it in praise of him and for the salvation of our soul and of our neighbors. (3) Novices should especially be on guard, as was said above, lest, out of excessive confidence in themselves, they trespass the rule imposed on them by their superiors and mistresses. They should devote all their effort to walking along that way which is marked for them regarding the regimen of body and soul. I say this because sometimes the enemy, with shrewd cunning, leads those who are only slightly instructed in the spiritual battle to think that they must soon die and that they will have little to show for themselves if they do not do further penance. (4) For this reason, the malignant one strives and studies to make them exceed the rule of true obedience which is without any doubt more meritorious than any penance they could do. So it is necessary to use with good judgment this weapon of recollection of our death, so that it can be utilized for the salvation of the soul and for the praise of Christ. Amen.
[VI] Of the Sixth Weapon.
(1) The sixth weapon is the memory of the goods of paradise which are prepared for those who lawfully struggle by abandoning all the vain pleasures of the present life in accord with the saying of the most holy doctor Saint Augustine that it is impossible to enjoy present goods and future ones too. (2) So, dear sisters, be content not to have in this world any pleasure or any beloved, and do not grow tired of denying your own will, remembering what our patriarch St. Francis said, that is, that the most excellent and greatest gift that God’s servant can receive from God in this world is to conquer himself by denying his own will. So he said: “So great is the good that I behold / that every wound is beloved by me,”38 in order to show how, through the memory of eternal things, he rejoiced in suffering evil. (3) And in confirmation of the joys which are prepared for you, dearest sisters, I will offer the following example: when I entered this present monastery, not long after I entered the present monastery, there entered a young woman who, after she was here for a little while, tired of doing good and regretted having abandoned the way of the world. And it happened that, being in that frame of mind, she went to make her confession to a very worthy servant of Christ to whom she said that she wanted to return to the world. (4) He was startled by this and responded: “Daughter, be careful what you are about to do for I have received a vision this night or rather early this morning which caused me to wonder a great deal because I did not know what it wished to signify.” She said: “Please tell me about it.” (5) And he said: “I was led to a beautiful feast where there were countless young ladies all over who were resplendent with indescribable beauty, and they were clothed with wondrous glory and had garlands of beautiful flowers on their heads. And thus adorned, they walked toward a young lady who evidently wished to walk in their company. And so with much jubilation and festive honor and glory, they drew up in front of her to receive her as she wished. (6) And when they were in front of her, she seemed to regret having come and turned around, and when that most noble company saw her do that, it seemed that all Romagna was sad. At that moment the vision disappeared. And then, returning to myself, I pondered what this vision was supposed to signify, but now I understand for sure that God has shown that to me by your coming. (7) For this reason, I beg you, daughter, that you not follow your current evil desire and temptation, but stand strong and persevere until the end, so that you can finally reach that noble feast and company which I saw, and rest eternally with these glorious virgins who await you.” (8) When she heard this, she resolved to stay with us, more from shame than anything else. But after a little time had passed, when it was observed that she did not carry herself in a religious way, she was sent back to her family and quickly came to the end of her life amid the vanities of the world. Thus was verified the vision of the servant of God, because, losing the crown of her virginity, she was justly deprived of rising up to the virginal province which the servant of Christ had seen. (9) So, beloved sisters, be strong and constant in persevering in doing good solely for the pure love of our Lord God and hope firmly in the goods of paradise so that you can finally reach them saying together with our seraphic St. Francis: “Those who are just await me until you reward me” (Ps 142.8). To the praise of Christ. Amen.
[VII] Of the Seventh Weapon.
(1) Of the seventh weapon I will elaborate more at length. I will do this in order to make clear a subtle trick played on one of the first sisters by the enemy of our salvation. This is the reason that I have been moved to write the present little book as a warning and instruction for all the novice sisters who are here at present or will follow in the future in this monastery, the salvation of whom, together with that of all rational creatures, I have so desired. With the frequent and daily demand of divine help it seemed to me that in a brief time I would lack the natural powers of my fragile body, so that even with great violence I could scarcely finish compiling this book. The great weakness caused me to tremble, not only in the hand, but also in the head and throughout my body. I would be content, for love of Christ Jesus, if instead, I finished the mortal path and the deadly deceits of the journey.(2) The seventh weapon with which we can conquer our enemies is the memory of Holy Scripture which we must carry in our hearts and from which, as from a most devoted mother, we must take counsel in the things we have to do. Thus we read of the most prudent and consecrated virgin St. Cecilia where it says: “She always bore the gospel of Christ hidden in her heart.”39 (3) And with this weapon, our savior Christ Jesus conquered and confounded the devil in the desert saying: “It is written” (Lk 4.1-13). Therefore, dearest sisters, let not the daily readings that you read in the choir and at table go without effect; and let the thoughts which you hear each day in the gospels and epistles at Mass be new letters sent to you by your heavenly spouse. And with great and fervent love put them in your breast, and when you have more time, think about them; do this especially when you are in your cell so that you can better and more securely embrace gently and chastely the things which they command you. (4) By doing this you will find yourselves continuously consoled because you will often receive news from the one whom you love above all else. O how sweet and gentle is the divine discourse of Christ Jesus in the soul of her who is truly enflamed by love of him! Is not the word Christ’s own sweet and mellifluous mouth the evangelical doctrine? Certainly it is, and so how attentively you should listen to it and taste it. (5) And here I put an end to the aforesaid weapons. But in this regard I beg you, dear sisters, that you learn to use them wisely and never be found without them so that you can better obtain the triumph of victory against your adversaries. And be on guard that you are not deceived by the mere appearance of good, for the devil sometimes appears in the appearance of Christ or of the virgin Mary or in the shape of an angel of a saint. Therefore, in every apparition that occurs, take up the weapon of Scripture which shows how the mother of Christ comported herself when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. She said to him: “What is this greeting?” (Lk 1.29). (7) Follow her example in every appearance and feeling, and you will want to test much better whether it is a good or a wicked spirit before you listen to him. Blessed is whoever does this. Also, it is not less necessary to keep a close guard on thoughts of the mind, since the devil sometimes puts good and holy thoughts in the mind to deceive it under the appearance of virtue, and after that, in order to show what it is, tries and assaults one strongly with the vice which is contrary to this virtue. This the enemy does in order to be able to entice the person into the ditch of desperation.
For the entire book, please click here. (32 page pdf file)