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Thus then, Theotimus, we are to behave ourselves in those inspirations which are only extraordinary in the sense that they move us to practise ordinary Christian exercises with an extraordinary fervour and perfection. But there are other inspirations which are called extraordinary, not only because they make the soul pass the bounds of ordinary actions, but also because they move it to actions contrary to the common laws, rules and customs of the most holy Church and therefore are more admirable than imitable. The holy maiden named by historians Eusebia the Stranger, left Rome, her native city, with two other maidens, and taking male attire embarked on a sea-voyage, went to Alexandria, and thence to the Isle of Cos; there, finding herself safe, she put on again her woman's dress, and again taking ship went into Caria to the town of Mylassa, whither the great Paul, who had found her in Cos and had taken her under his spiritual direction, led her, and where afterwards being made Bishop, he so holily directed her that she established a monastery and dedicated herself to serve the Church in 357the office of deaconess (as in those days it was called), with such fervour of charity that in the end she died a Saint, and by a number of miracles which God did by her relics and intercession, was recognized as such. To put on the attire belonging to the other sex, and thus disguised to expose oneself to a journey with men, does not only pass the ordinary rules of Christian modesty, but is even contrary to them. A certain young man, having given his mother a kick, touched with a lively repentance, confessed it to S. Anthony of Padua; who, to imprint the horror of his sin more deeply in his heart, said to him, amongst other things: My child, the foot which was the instrument of your wickedness would deserve to be cut off for so great a trespass; which the youth took in such good earnest, that having returned home to his mother, transported with the feeling of contrition, he cut off his foot. The words of the Saint would not have had such force, according to their ordinary meaning, unless God had added his inspiration thereunto; but it was so extraordinary an inspiration that it must rather have been considered a temptation, if the miraculous restoration of his foot, effected by the Saint's benediction, had not warranted it. S. Paul the first hermit, S. Anthony, S. Mary of Egypt, did not bury themselves in those vast wildernesses—deprived of hearing Mass, of Communion, of Confession, and deprived, young as they were, of all direction and assistance,—without a strong inspiration. The great Simeon Stylites led a life that never mortal creature would have dreamt of or undertaken without heavenly instinct and assistance. S. John, bishop, surnamed the Silent, forsaking his diocese without the knowledge of any of his clergy, passed the rest of his days in the Monastery of Laura, nor was there afterwards any news heard of him. Was not this contrary to the rule of keeping holy residence? And the great S. Paulinus, who sold himself to ransom a poor widow's son, how could he do it according to ordinary laws, since he was not his own, but, by his episcopal consecration, belonged to the Church and his people? Those virgins and married women who, being pursued for their beauty, with voluntary wounds disfigured their faces, that under the mask of a holy deformity they might preserve their chastity, did they not do a thing, apparently, forbidden?


Now one of the best marks of the goodness of all inspirations in general, and particularly of extraordinary ones, is the peace and tranquillity of the heart that receives them: for though indeed the Holy Ghost is violent, yet his violence is gentle, sweet and peaceful. He comes as a mighty wind,393393Acts ii. 2. and as a heavenly thunder, but he does not overthrow the Apostles, he troubles them not; the fear which they had in hearing the sound was of no continuance, but was immediately followed by a sweet assurance. That is why this fire sits upon each of them, taking and causing a sacred repose; and as our Saviour is called a peaceful or pacific Solomon, so is his spouse called Sulamitess, calm and daughter of peace: and the voice, that is, the inspiration, of the bridegroom does not in any sort disquiet or trouble her, but draws her so sweetly that he makes her soul deliciously melt and, as it were, flow out into him: My soul, says she, melted when my beloved spoke:394394Cant. v. 6. and though she be warlike and martial, yet is she withal so peaceable, that amidst armies and battles she maintains the concord of an unequalled melody. What shalt thou see, saith she, in the Sulamitess but the choirs of armies?395395Cant. vii. 1. Her armies are choirs, that is, harmonies of singers; and her choirs are armies, because the weapons of the Church and of the devout soul, are only prayers, hymns, canticles and psalms. Thus it is that those servants of God who had the highest and sublimest inspirations were the most mild and peaceable men in the world, as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob: Moses is styled the meekest of men; David is lauded for his mildness. On the contrary, the evil spirit is turbulent, rough, disturbing; and those who follow infernal suggestions, taking them to be heavenly inspirations, are as a rule easily known, because they are unquiet, headstrong, haughty, ready to undertake or meddle with all affairs, men who under the cloak of zeal turn everything upside down, censure every one, chide every one, find fault with everything; they are persons who will not be directed, will not give in to any one, will bear nothing, but gratify the passions of self-love under the name of jealousy for God's honour.


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