To almighty God, from whom all good things proceed, be praise and honor, especially for these things that he has done for you in the time of your youth! Of his grace one must ask that the love you have for him may increase in you daily even until death.
A mighty and magnificent king constructed a house, in which he placed his beloved daughter, assigning her to the custody of a man and saying this: ”My daughter has mortal enemies and therefore you must guard her with all care. There are four things that you must beware with diligent premeditation and constant concern: first, that no one undermine the foundation of the house; second, that no one climb over the top of the outer walls; third, that no one breach the walls of the house; fourth, that no enemy enter through the gates.”
My Lord, this parable that I write for you out of divine charity - God, the searcher of all hearts being my witness - must be understood spiritually. Therefore, by the house I mean your body, which the King of heaven formed out of the earth. By the king's daughter I mean your soul, created by the power of the Most High and placed in your heart. By the guardian I mean human reason, which will guard your soul according to the will of the eternal King. By the foundation I mean a good, firm, and stable will. For on it must be built all good works, by which the soul is best defended.
Therefore, since your will is such that you wish to live for nothing else but to follow God's will, showing him by word and deed all the honor you can, and also serving him with your body and your goods and all your strength, as long as you live, in order that you may be able to commend your soul, preserved from all impurity of the flesh, to its Creator, then, oh how vigilantly must you guard this foundation, i.e., your will, by means of the guardian, i.e., your reason, so that no one may be able to undermine it with his siege-engines to the soul's harm.
By those who strive to undermine this type of foundation I mean those who speak to you thus and say: ”My Lord, be a layman and take to yourself a charming, noble, and wealthy wife so that you may rejoice in your offspring and heirs and no be weighed down by the tribulation of the flesh.” And others perhaps reply in this manner: ”If you want to become a cleric, then also learn the liberal arts, to the end that you may be called 'master' while procuring for yourself, by prayers or gifts, as much as you can of the goods and revenues of the Church.
Then you will have worldly honor for your knowledge; and by your worldly friends and your many servants, you will be glorified for the abundance of your riches.” Behold: if perhaps anyone should offer you such persuasion, immediately make the guardian, i.e., reason, answer him and say that you would be willing to endure all the tribulation of the flesh rather than lose your chastity. Answer also that you want to acquire knowledge and the arts for the honor of God and the defense of the Catholic faith, for the strengthening of good people and for the correction of the erring and of all who need your advice and teaching; and say that you do not wish to desire anything in this life beyond sustenance for your body and for the household truly necessary to you and not overly enlarged for the sake of vainglory.
Say also that, if perchance divine providence were to confer on you some added dignity, you desire to order all things wisely for the benefit of your neighbor and for the honor of God. And so indeed the guardian, i.e., reason, will be able to expel those who are exerting themselves to undermine the foundation, i.e., your good will. Reason must also constantly and diligently beware lest anyone climb over the top of the walls. By this top of the walls I mean charity, which is more sublime than all the virtues. Know therefore most certainly that the devil desires nothing more than to leap over that wall. And so he incessantly tries as much as he can that mundane charity and carnal love may surpass divine charity.
Wherefore, my Lord, as often as worldly love attempts to advance itself in your heart in preference to divine charity, immediately send the guardian, i.e., reason, out to meet it with the commandments of God and saying that you would rather endure death in soul and body than live to such an end that you would, by word or deed, provoke a God so kind, and, indeed, that you would not in any way spare your own life, your goods or possessions, or the favorable opinions of your relatives and friends provided that you might be able to please God alone in every respect and honor him in all things, and that you choose to submit voluntarily to all tribulations rather than cause any harm, scandal, or trouble to any of your neighbors - whether higher or lower than yourself - and that, in accord with the precept of the Lord, you wish instead to love all your neighbors thoroughly and in a brotherly way.
And if you do this, my Lord, you are proved to love God more than yourself, and your neighbor as yourself. Then, therefore, the guardian, i.e., reason, can rest securely because no rival of your soul is able to climb over the top of the walls.
By the house walls, in truth, I mean four delights of the heavenly court, which a human being ought to long for interiorly with attentive meditation. The first is a fervent longing in the heart to see God himself in his eternal glory and those unfailing riches that are never taken away from one who has acquired them. The second is an incessant wish to hear those sweet-sounding voices of the angels in which, without tiring and without end, they praise God and unceasingly adore him.
The third is a whole-hearted and fervently longing desire eternally to praise God even as the very angels do. The fourth is longing to possess the everlasting consolations of the angels and of the holy souls in heaven. Hence it is to be noted that, just as one who is inside a house is always surrounded by walls wherever one turns, so it is with everyone who, day and night, with supreme longing, desires those four things - namely, to see God in his glory, to hear the angels praising God, to praise God together with them, and to possess their consolations. Truly, wherever such a one turns or whatever work he is intent upon, he is then always preserved unharmed inside firm walls so that, as a result, by dwelling among the very angels in this life, he may be said to enjoy the company of God.
Oh how much, my Lord, your enemy longs to dig through walls of this sort and to take such inner delights away from the heart and to introduce and entangle into your desire others contrary to them, which could gravely harm your soul. On which account, the guardian, i.e., reason, must have diligent precaution about the two ways by which the enemy usually comes. The first way is the hearing; the second, sight. He comes indeed through the hearing when he introduces into the heart the delights of secular songs and of various sweet-sounding instruments, of useless tales and of narrations of the praises of one's own person. The more these things raise one up through pride in oneself, the more distantly one is separated from the humble Christ.
Therefore the guardian, i.e., reason, must resist such delight and say this: ”Just as the devil has hatred for all the humility that the Holy Spirit breathes into the hearts of human beings, so I, by the working of God's help, will have hatred for all the pomp and worldly pride that the evil spirit, with his pestilent inflammation, pours into hearts; and it shall be to me as hateful as the stench of rotten corpses, which immediately suffocates those who catch it in their nostrils.” Through sight also the enemy is accustomed to come, as if by a second way, to dig through the aforementioned house walls; and he brings with him many tools: namely, all sorts of metals wrought into various objects and forms, precious stones, prestigious clothing, lordly palaces, castles, estates, ponds, forests, vineyards, and all other sorts of costly and lucrative things.
For if all these things are fervently desired, they are a proven means of dissipating the aforementioned house walls, i.e., the heavenly delights. Therefore the guardian, i.e., reason, must run out quickly, before such things come into the heart's delight and love, and must say: ”If I shall have in my power any of the possessions of this sort, I will lay it away in that chest where thieves or moth are not feared; and with divine grace helping me, I will not offend my God through coveting others' possessions; nor, through ambition for the things of others, will I separate myself in any way from the company of those who serve Christ.”
By the gates of the said house I mean, in fact, all the body's needs, which indeed the body cannot decline: namely, eating, drinking, sleep, wakefulness, and even occasional distresses and joys. Therefore the guardian, i.e., reason, must stand by these gates, i.e., the body's needs, with concern and, with divine fear, must resist enemies wisely and persistently lest they enter toward the soul.
Therefore, just as in taking food and drink one must beware lest the enemy enter through overindulgence, which makes the soul slothful in serving God, so too one must beware lest the foe gain entrance through excessive abstinence, which makes the body weak in doing all things. Let the guardian, i.e., reason, also take note lest, either when you are alone with your household or when guests arrive, for the sake of worldly honor and the favorable opinion of human beings, there be an uninterrupted succession of too many courses; but, out of divine charity, treat each one well while excluding a multiplicity of foods and also extravagant delicacies.
Next, the guardian, i.e., reason, must with vigilance and attention consider the fact that, just as food and drink must be moderated, so too must sleep be moderated with fear in such a way that the body may be nimble and in better order for accomplishing all the honor of God so that every waking moment may be usefully spent on the divine offices and on honest labors, with all the heaviness of sleep far removed.
Moreover, at the approach of any distress or rancor, the guardian, i.e., reason, accompanied by his companion, namely, fear of God, must swiftly run forth lest, through anger or impatience, it happen that you forfeit divine grace and gravely provoke God against yourself. What is more, when some consolation or joy fills your heart, let the guardian, i.e., reason, imprint the heart more deeply with the fear of God which, with the help of the grace of Jesus Christ, will moderate that consolation or joy in a way that will be of more use to you.
When Lady Bridget was in Naples, there were revealed to her the innermost secrets of the heart of Elzear - later, a cardinal - and certain wonderful things that were going to happen to him. When he heard these things, he was stunned; and he changed for the better.
In the year of our Lord, 1371, in the month of May, on the day of blessed Urban, pope and martyr, when Lady Bridget had been living in Rome for many years, after she had returned from pilgrimages in the kingdom of Naples, while she was at prayer on the day and in the month given above, Christ appeared to her and said that she should prepare herself to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in order to visit the Holy Sepulchre.