The Mother of mercy was speaking with the bride of Christ: ”What are we to do with this blind bishop? He has three characteristics. He works to please men more than God. He loves not the treasure guarded by angels but that which thieves can steal. He also loves himself more than his neighbor and more than his God.” Right then the bride saw six pans of a balance, three of which were very heavy, pressed down by the weight. The other three pans were so light that they were raised up all the way to the top, because nothing was to be seen in them but a weight as light as a feather.
The Mother said: ”Look at this bishop. Though he does have the three aforementioned vices, still he is ever fearful. Because of his fear, which is conducive to charity, it was given to you to see his condition. Those three heavy scale-pans symbolize his deeds against God that weigh down his soul. They appear as three to you, because he is sinking like a scale toward the world in his feelings, words, and actions. The three other lightly loaded scale-pans are rising up to God. However, his worldly affairs outweigh his spiritual ones, since he has a greater and more zealous interest in them, so much so that the devil is already pulling him by the feet, and his snare lies ready.”
The bride answered: ”O good Mother, put something on the scales!” The Mother said to her: ”Agnes and I have been waiting to see if the bishop might perhaps recollect our love, but he does not pay much attention to our solicitude for him. However, we will do with him as would three friends sitting on the wayside who know the way and would point it out to their friend. The first would say: 'My friend, the way you have taken is neither straight nor safe. If you continue along that path, robbers will harm you and, just when you think you are safe, you will die.' The second would say: 'The way you have taken seems to be pleasant, but what good will that do you if there is mental anguish in the end?' The third would say: 'My friend, I see your infirmity. Do not be displeased, if I offer you some advice, and do not be ungrateful if I do you a special favor.' Agnes and I want to act in this way with this bishop. If he will listen to the first friend, the second will show him the way, and the third will lead him to the region of light.”
The bride was then shown the instructions that would be divinely sent to the aforementioned bishop, as follows. The Mother speaks: ”Say thus to the bishop: Though God can do all things, personal cooperation is needed in order to avoid sin and obtain divine charity. Three things lead to the avoidance of sin and three things work together for the obtainment of charity. The three things by which sin is avoided are these: faithfully repenting everything that nags one's conscience, not wanting to commit them again voluntarily, and steadfastly making amends for the offenses committed and confessed following the advice of those who live in contempt of the world.
The three things that work together for obtaining charity are these: first, asking for God's help to get rid of base pleasure and to be given the will to do what God wants. Divine charity is not obtained unless it is desired, and the desire will not be rational unless it is founded on God's charity. Thus, a person has three things before charity enters, while three other things enter after the infusion of divine charity. Before the infusion of God's charity, a man worries about the coming of death, about the loss of honor and friends, about worldly setbacks and physical illness. Once charity has been obtained, the soul experiences joy in the hardships she suffers in the world, while the mind is uneasy about worldly possessions and finds joy in giving honor to God and in suffering for the sake of God's honor. The second thing that leads to charity is giving alms from one's superfluous means. When a bishop has the housewares and clothes appropriate for the needs of a humble prelate and not for ostentation and superfluity, then he should be content with them and distribute alms from what is left over. When the poor household servants of prelates become rich and live luxuriously on the temporal goods and possessions of other souls, then other, truly poor people will cry out profusely for vengeance upon them. The third thing that leads to charity is charitable work. For whoever would not pray even a single Our Father to obtain charity might thus please God, and divine charity would soon come to him.”
Again the Mother said to Christ her Son: ”Blessed are you, Jesus Christ, best of champions, swiftest in running your course and strongest in waging battle. It is written that David was a great and powerful champion, but he was nothing like you. David threw a stone at his enemy running up at a distance. You approached your enemy on foot and broke his back. David took his enemy's sword and cut off his head while he lay prostrate on the ground. You took away your enemy's sword while he was standing. Your patience overcame him while he was alive; you crushed the might of the mighty with your humility. You are, therefore, the warrior of warriors. No one was ever or ever will be like you. From a mighty father, a stalwart son has arisen who has freed his father and brothers. Hence, most loving champion, I ask that you may deign to grant to this bishop the knowledge of how to fight and the strength to run the course of warriors so that he may take his seat with the true champions who have given their lives for your life and offered their blood for your blood.”
The Son answered: ”A charitable prayer is not to be neglected. Scripture says that no one comes to me unless the Father draws him. If he who draws something is strong but the thing drawn too heavy, his effort is soon wasted and comes to naught. Besides, if the object drawn is tied up, then it can neither help itself nor the person drawing it, should that person fall. If the object drawn is unclean, then it is loathsome to draw it. For this reason, it is necessary that the thing that must be drawn and wants to be drawn should first be cleansed and properly prepared, so that it becomes easy and pleasing to draw along by hand. Due to my Mother's prayers, however, whenever this bishop starts looking for the way, the right way will be pointed out to him.”
Then the Mother spoke some additional words to the bride: ”Hear, daughter, you to whom it has been given to hear spiritual truths. I told you earlier that if the bishop looks for the way, it will be pointed out to him. I shall now explain the way to him. If this bishop proposes to walk along the path spoken of in the gospel, and to be one of the few, he should first have three things before starting out on it. He should first put off the burden that besets him and weighs him down - I mean his worldly desires and money bags - by not loving worldly superfluity and pride but by getting from it only the needs consistent with the decent and humble sustenance of a bishop and by putting everything else to use for the glory of God. This is what that good man Matthew did. He left behind the heavy burden of the world, which he had not understood to be burdensome until he had found a light and pleasant burden.
In the second place, the bishop should be girded for the journey, to use the words of scripture. When Tobias was sent by his father to get the money, he found the angel standing there girded. What does the angel symbolize if not the priest and bishop of the Lord? He must be pure in body and affections, for, next to a prophet, a priest is the angel of the Lord of hosts, for God, whom the angels see and adore, has received him and consecrated him. The angel appeared to Tobias girded for the journey because every priest and bishop should be girded with the belt of divine justice, ready to give his life for his sheep, ready to speak the truth in his words, ready to point out the way of justice in himself, ready to suffer for the sake of justice and truth, not neglecting it due to threats and taunts, neither keeping silent out of false friendship nor practicing dissimulation on the advice of others. To each bishop thus girded with righteousness and trusting not in himself but in God, Tobias, that is, the righteous man, shall come, and righteous men shall follow after him, for good example and good deeds are worth more than naked words.
In the third place, he should eat bread and water, just as we read about Elijah, who found bread and water at his head and was urged by the angel to eat, for a long journey awaited him. What is the bread eaten by Elijah from which he derived such strength, if not the material and spiritual goods given to him? For material bread was given to him as a lesson to others, so that people might understand it to be God's wish that they have a moderate amount of necessities for strengthening of the body. Moreover, spiritual strength and inspiration was given to the prophet by which he was able to labor on for forty days so that people might know that man does not live by bread alone but by God's every word. For, if God had not given such consolation to the prophet, he would certainly have given up out of weakness, for man is weak in himself but strong in God. Everyone who stands firm and strong is strong and brave by reason of God. Therefore, because this bishop is weak, we lay down that he should take the morsel of bread, that is, to love God above all things, with order, and purely, truly, perfectly. With order, so as to love the world without any superfluity. Purely, so as not to love any sin in himself or his neighbor or desire to imitate any base habits.
Truly, so as to allow no sin due to trusting to his own good works but so as to govern himself wisely in order not to succumb by being overzealous or to tend perhaps toward sin due to cowardice or the imitation of base men or nonchalance about guilt. Perfectly, so that nothing tastes as sweet to him as God. We bid him also to take some water along with the bread of charity. What is this water if not to think continually on the bitterness of Christ's passion? Who is able to meditate worthily enough on the agony of Christ's human nature, the agony that he was undergoing at the moment when he prayed for the chalice of his passion to be taken from him and when drops of his blood came from his body? That sweat was bloody indeed, because the blood of God's human nature was consumed with the natural fear he was suffering in order to show that he was true man, not a phantasm nor immune to suffering. So, have the bishop drink this water by considering how God stood before Herod and Pilate, what pain and scorn he experienced on the cross and how a lance opened his side from which flew blood and water.
Once the bishop has these three things, then it is useful for him to know how to order his time from the beginning of the day until night. When the bishop first awakens after nighttime, he should immediately give thanks for God's love in creation, for his sufferings in the redemption, for the patience with which he has for so long endured his own sins and habits. Then, when he has got out of bed and put on his clothes, he should say this: 'Ashes must with ashes be, dust with dust. Yet, since I hold the office of bishop in others' sight by the providence of God, I am clothing an ass, you, my body, ashes and dust, not for the sake of ostentation but as a covering, so that you do not appear naked. Nor do I care whether your clothing be better or worse, but only that the bishop's habit be acknowledged out of reverence for God, and that through this habit others may recognize the bishop's authority for the correction and instruction of the weak.
And so, kind God, I beg you to give me steadfastness of mind so that I do not take pride in my precious ashes nor foolishly glory in my colors. Grant me strength so that, just as a bishop's garb is more respectable than that of others due to his divine authority, the garb of my soul may be more virtuous before you, lest I be thrust down all the deeper for having held authority in an unwise manner or lest I be ignominiously stripped for having foolishly worn my venerable garb to my own damnation.' After that he should read or sing the hours, if he can. The higher the rank to which a person rises, the more he is obliged to give glory to God. However, a pure and humble heart pleases God as much in silence as in singing. After Mass has been said, or beforehand, he should fulfill his episcopal duties, whether of a material or spiritual nature, and show mercy in all his works, considering the glory of God, so that he may not be thought by the weak to care more about temporal than spiritual goods.
When he comes to the dinner table, this should be his prayer: 'O Lord Jesus Christ, you will that this corruptible body should be sustained with material food, I ask you to help me to give my body what it needs in such a way that it does not grow sluggish from too much food nor weak from too much frugality. Inspire in me a suitable moderation so that when this man of earth lives on the things of the earth, the Lord of the earth may not be provoked to anger by his creature of earth.' While at table, he may enjoy moderate comfort with his fellow diners, but in such a way as to avoid detraction and frivolity. Above all, he must avoid saying anything that might confirm others in their vices or be an occasion of sin.
A person who is to be a light for others must consider what is fitting and proper before God, how to edify them, and what is profitable for their salvation. If bread and wine are missing from the material table, everything loses its taste. It is likewise at the spiritual table: Everything will be tasteless for the soul if the wine of spiritual joy and the bread of God's doctrine are missing. Thus, the bishop should say something to the glory of God while at table in order to strengthen his fellow diners spiritually, or else he should see to it that something edifying is read, so that at one and the same bodily meal both the body may be refreshed and the soul may be instructed.
When the meal is ended and grace has been said, the bishop should make any expedient announcements or fulfill his episcopal agenda, or catch some sleep if he needs it for his health, or else peruse books of spiritual guidance. After dinner, though, he may entertain himself with the companions of his household in a respectable way, and comfort them, for if the bow is too tightly drawn, it is soon broken. In this way, moderate enjoyment for the sake of the weakness of the flesh is pleasing to God. However, the wise bishop should behave toward his companions as a mother nursing her child does, for she anoints her nipples with ashes or some other bitter substance until the child becomes used to more solid foods. He should make sure that he observes moderation in his enjoyments as well as gentleness in his restraint so as to attract his companions to God through God-fearing and humble speech. Hence, he should teach them to revere and love God, becoming in this way both their father through the divine authority in him and their mother and nurse through the well-meaning formation he gives them. If he knows that anyone in his household is in the state of mortal sin and has not repented despite both lenient and strong admonishments, then he should separate himself from him and disown him. Otherwise, if he retains him out of convenience and worldly partiality, he will not be immune from the other's sin.
When he goes to bed, he should turn his heart to God and think over what his thoughts and affections have been that day, along with his deeds and decisions, and implore God's help and mercy with a firm purpose of improving when he can. When he gets into bed, he should pray as follows: 'Lord God, Creator of my body, look on me in your mercy. Grant me your help, so that I do not grow lazy in your service by oversleeping nor weak in your service due to lack of sleep. Give me that measure of sleep that you have prescribed for the temporal relief of the body. May the enemy not harm my body nor be allowed in your hidden judgment to get mastery of my soul.'
When he gets up out of bed, he should wash away in confession any illicit things that might have happened during the night, so that the sleep of the following night might not begin with the sins of the previous. As is written: 'Do not let the sun go down on your anger' - nor on your thoughts and illusions, for sometimes a minor, venial sin can turn into a mortal one through negligence and contempt. I advise him, too, every Friday to do penance for his sins by making a humble confession to a priest with the purpose of amendment. Otherwise, his confession is worthless.”
Again, the Mother of God added: ”If the bishop sets out on this holy path, I warn him of three difficulties. The first is that it is a narrow path; the second, that it is thorny and sharp; the third, that it is uneven and rocky. I will give him three remedies for this. The first is for him to put on clothes. The second is to keep his ten fingers in front of his eyes and look through them as through bars so that the thorns do not easily or suddenly scratch his uncovered eyes. The third is that he should step cautiously and test each and every step he takes to see if his foot gets a firm hold, and he should not hastily set down both feet at the same time unless he has first assured himself of the path, whether it is slippery or level.
This narrow path symbolizes nothing other than the malice of wicked people and the hardships of the world that hinder and disturb the righteous on the path of righteousness. Against these things, the bishop should clothe himself in the garment of steadfast patience, for it is glorious to suffer insults on behalf of justice and truth. The ten fingers held before the eyes symbolize nothing other than the ten commandments. The righteous should reflect on them everyday so as to hold God's love in view whenever the thorns of insult make themselves felt. Whenever one feels the thorns of malice, one should react with love of neighbor. Whenever one feels drawn to worldly and carnal love, one should look to the scriptural injunction, 'You shall not covet,' and put a brake on concupiscence and live moderation.
Where charity is divine, patience is there in hardships, and joy in sickness, and sorrow over superfluity, fear of honor, humility in power, and the desire of withdrawing from the world. That the bishop should test each step to see if he has a firm foothold means that he should everywhere have an attitude of intelligent fear. A righteous person should have two feet. One foot is a longing for eternity. The other is a distaste for worldliness. His longing for eternity should be circumspect, in the sense that he must not long for eternal things for his own honor more than for God. His distaste for the world should be cautious, in the sense that it must not be the irrational result of impatience with life and his adverse fortune nor because of weariness in divine work. Caution is thus needed so that this distaste should only be the result of his longing for a better life and his abhorrence of sin.
Once the bishop has both these feet, fearful even that those faults he has corrected have not been fully corrected, and if he proceeds along this narrow and thorny path, then I would warn him about three enemies along the way. You see, the first enemy tries to whistle in his ears, while the second stands in front of him in order to scratch out his eyes, and the third enemy is at his feet, shouting loudly and holding a noose in order to ensnare the bishop's feet when he jumps up at his enemy's shout.
The first are those people or those diabolic impulses that make such suggestions to the bishop as these: 'Why are you making your way with such humility on so narrow a path? Why do you take so much work on yourself? Can it be that you want to be holier than other people so that you achieve what no one else has? Go off instead to the verdant path where many others are walking, so that you do not make a miserable failure of yourself. What does it matter to you whether people behave well or badly? What good does it do you to offend those people who could honor and appreciate you, if they do not offend you or yours? What concern is it of yours if they are offending God? It is better to exchange gifts! Make use of your position and of human friendships so as to win praise and to obtain heaven alike.' You see, this kind of enemy is whistling and has whistled in the ears of many persons. This is why many lamps that should be shining in the darkness have themselves become darkness, and much fine gold has been turned into mud.
The second enemy that tries to scratch out his eyes is worldly beauty and possessions, human privileges and favors. When such things are offered and desired, the eyes of the soul and of reason are blinded, because it seems more pleasant to stand around with Samson at the millstone of worldly care than to stay with the bridal church and be disposed for pastoral care. Moreover, even love for God, if there was any, grows lukewarm then, and sin is committed with confidence, and the committed offense is taken lightly because of this confidence in one's power. Therefore, when the bishop has what he needs for his household, the size of which is determined so as to maintain his honor and authority, he should be content. This agrees with the scriptural passage: 'Let your manners be without covetousness, contented with moderate possessions,' for no wholehearted soldier of God gets involved in worldly affairs, except only reluctantly and for the glory of God.
The third enemy carries a noose and shouts loudly as follows: 'Why do you humble yourself so much, you who could be honored above many people? Make an effort to go up to a higher position. Then you will have plenty and can give more away. Become a priest so that you may take your place among those of the first rank. Become a bishop and then an archbishop or even higher, so that you may obtain more relaxation, better service, and greater privilege. Then you will be able to help others and be more respected by others and receive many people's encouragement.' When the heart is deceived by such suggestions, a foot is soon incautiously extended toward avarice, and one looks for a way to rise to a higher position. Then the heart becomes so entangled in the noose of worldly care that it can scarcely rise up. Nor is this surprising, since scripture says that whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. And what is that noble task? It is to work for souls and for the glory of God, to work for an eternal reward and not a perishable one.
Now, instead, many desire the honors but not the work, and yet these are not an honor but an affliction. Where the burden of divine work is not found, there follows no honor for the soul in God's sight. This is why the bishop should not seek a higher rank other than the one he holds, for there is a noose lying hidden on the ground that is a trap for one who walks along the path. It is therefore beneficial to remain in his position, until either it pleases God to provide otherwise or an ecclesiastical superior decides something else for the glory of God. This has been said as advice and as a loving warning.
We will now explain what the bishop should do for God. He must hold his miter tightly in his arms. He must not sell it for money nor give it up to others for the sake of friendship nor lose it through negligence and lukewarmness. The bishop's crown or miter signifies nothing other than the bishop's power to ordain priests, to correct those who go astray, and to instruct the ignorant by his word and example. To hold his miter tightly in his arms means that the bishop should reflect carefully on how and why he received his episcopal power, how he wields it, and what its reward will be.
If the bishop would examine how he received his power, he should first examine whether he desired the episcopate for his own sake or for God's. If it was for his own sake, then he has reason to fear; if it was for God's sake, then his desire was meritorious and spiritual. If the bishop would consider for what purpose he has received his rank and power, let me tell him. It was in order that he might become a consoler and liberator of souls by reason of his merit. He lives on almsgiving so that he might nourish the poor and be like a father for the rich, to assist God in spiritual errands and be zealous on behalf of God. If he wants to know the reward for his office, Paul says it well: He who has carried out his ministry well will be esteemed worthy of twofold honor. It is twofold in the sense of being both corporal and spiritual. Everyone who wears the episcopal garb but does not follow the episcopal way of life, who seeks the honor but neglects the work, will merit a double disgrace.
That the bishop's power is not to be sold means that the bishop should not knowingly commit simony nor tolerate it in others if he finds out about it, nor ordain or promote anyone for the sake of money and human favor, nor advance anyone whom he knows to be unworthy and of bad character because the worldly minded petition him to do so. That he should not give up his power to others on account of human friendship means that the bishop should not disguise the sins of the negligent out of false compassion, nor keep quiet out of friendship, nor, for any worldly reason, take on his own back the sins of others when he can, as he ought, correct them.
The bishop is God's sentinel. The blood of the dead is the sentinel's responsibility, if the sentinel saw the danger and did not cry out or if he fell asleep or did not care. That the bishop should not lose his crown or miter through negligence means that the bishop should not delegate to others what he should and can do himself. Nor should he, for the sake of his own lukewarm ease, transfer to others what he himself is better able to carry out. Nor should the bishop be ignorant of the life and conduct of those to whom he delegates his tasks. Instead, he should inquire both privately and openly about their conduct and their manner of observing justice, for the bishop's duty is not to rest but to work with solicitude.
In addition to taking good care of his miter as I have described, the bishop also ought to carry a bouquet of flowers under his arms in order to attract sheep far and near. A good shepherd entices his sheep to follow him by means of flowers and hay. This bouquet of flowers signifies the godly preaching that pertains to a bishop. His two arms are two kinds of works, namely, good works in public for the sake of alluring others and good works in secret out of fear of God and as an example to one's neighbors. If his preaching is joined to these two good works, the bouquet of flowers will be most beautiful, and the nearby sheep in his diocese will gladly run after him. Likewise, the faraway sheep, hearing of his reputation, will want to get to know him, both because of his words and because of the charitable works that accompany them. These are the sweetest flowers for attracting sheep: doing deeds of virtue and teaching others, not with learned rhetoric but in few words full of charity. It is not right for a preacher of God to be mute nor for the sentinel of God's house to be blind.
The bishop still lacks one thing. When the bishop reaches the gate, he must present a gift to the high king. We advise him to present to the king a vessel that is dear to him, an empty and ornate vessel. The empty vessel to be presented is his own heart. May he offer it to God all adorned with virtue yet empty of self-will and carnal love. When this bishop reaches the gate, the shining host of heaven will come out to meet him. The true God and man will receive him, and the angels will then say: 'Lord God, this bishop was clean in body, pure in his priesthood, apostolic in his preaching, a bishop vigilant in his duties, manly in his conduct, humble in his office. Behold him whom we have longed to meet for his purity's sake, and so we present him to you, for he longed for you for the sake of your charity!'
Then all the saints in heaven will say: 'Lord our God! We have our joy in you. Yet, our joy is heightened by this bishop. He carried flowers on his lips and used them to call out to many sheep. He carried flowers in his hands to give refreshment to the sheep that came to him. He sent flowers to those that lived afar and so roused sheep who were sleeping. Thus, because the flowers of his words increased our chorus, we rejoice over him. Rejoice with us, Lord God, over this man and his honor, for he longed for you above all things.'
Then the Lord, the giver of glory, shall say to him: 'Friend, you came to present to me the vessel of your heart emptied of yourself, and you longed to be filled with me. Therefore, come, I will fill you with myself. Be in me and I shall be in you. Your glory and happiness will have no end.' ”
The Virgin Mary tells the bride while she is praying for a hermit, a friend of hers, who had died, that, before his body is buried beneath the earth, his soul will be brought into heaven.