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Chapter 16

God's Mother says to the bride of Christ: ”Why did you give hospitality to that man who has a boastful tongue, a strange way of life and worldly customs? She answers: ”Because he was thought to be a good man, and I did not want to get into trouble for disdaining a man with a reputation for talking. However, if I had known beforehand that it was displeasing to God, I would no more have received him than I would have a snake.” The Mother says to her: ”Your goodwill set a guard and a restraint on his tongue and heart, so that he did not cause you any worries. The devil in his cunning brought you a wolf in sheep's clothing in order to create an occasion of causing you distress and spreading talk about you.” She answers: ”He seems devout and penitent to us. He visits the saints and says he wants to keep away from sin.”

The Mother answers: ”If you have a feathered goose, tell me, do you eat the meat or the feathers? Is it not so that the feathers are revolting to the stomach, but the meat provides true food and refreshment? This can be applied spiritually to the arrangement and constitution of the Holy Church. She is like a goose in that she has within her the body of Christ, as it were, the freshest of meat. The sacraments are like the inner parts of the goose. Its wings symbolize the virtues and acts of the martyrs and confessors. Its down represents the charity and patience of the saints, and its feathers indulgences that holy men have granted and gained. People who receive indulgences with the intention of gaining absolution for their previous sins while remaining in their previous vicious habits only get the feathers of the goose. Their souls are neither fed nor refreshed. When they eat the feathers, they just throw up.
However, people who receive indulgences and are minded to flee from sin, to restore goods unjustly taken, to make satisfaction for wounds unjustly inflicted, not to earn a single penny through base profit, not to live a single day except according to God's will, to submit their will to God in fortune and misfortune, and to flee worldly honors and friendships such as these will gain pardon of their sins and be like angels of God in the sight of God.
The people who enjoy the absolution of previous sins yet do not have the will of giving up the previous vanities and inordinate affections of their mind, but who want to hold on to their unjust acquisitions, who want to love the world in themselves and in their families, who blush for humility and do want not to flee from corrupt habits or to restrain their bodies from superfluity, for such as these the feathers, that is, the indulgences, only result in a throwing up. This means that they obtain contrition and confession by which sin is thrown out and God's grace is gained. Then, if they wish to cooperate in order to obtain it for themselves, and have an upright intention, they shall fly as if on wings away from the hands of the devil and into the bosom of God.”
She answers: ”O, Mother of mercy, pray for this man, so that he may find favor in your Son's sight!” She says to her: ”The Holy Spirit does visit him, but there is something rocklike in front of his heart that prevents God's grace from entering. God, you see, is like a hen warming her eggs out of which come living chickens. All the eggs under the hen receive her warmth, but not any other eggs lying about. The mother does not herself break the shell of the egg in which the chick is being formed, but the chick tries to break the shell with its own beak. When the mother sees that, she prepares a warmer place for her chick to hatch.
Likewise, God visits everyone with his grace. Some people say to themselves: 'We want to keep away from sin and strive for perfection as far as we are able.' The Holy Spirit visits such people more frequently, so that they are more perfectly able to do so. Those people who entrust all their will to God and do not want to do even the least little thing against God's love but imitate, instead, those others whom they see tending toward perfection, abiding by the counsel of humble persons, and struggling wisely against carnal tendencies, these God places underneath himself, as a hen does with her chicks, and he makes his yoke light for them and comforts them in difficulties. Those people who follow their own will, however, and think that the little good they do is worthy of reward in God's sight, and do not strive for greater perfection but stay on in whatever delights their mind, using the example of others to excuse their own weaknesses and the corruption of others as a way to lessen their own guilt, such people do not turn into God's little chicks, because they do not possess the will to break through the hardness and vanity of their hearts. Rather, if they could, they would prefer to live for as long as they were able to persevere in sin.
That good man, Zacchaeus, did not act so, nor did Mary Magdalene. Instead, insofar as they had offended God in all their limbs, they gave him all their limbs in reparation for their offenses. Insofar as they had risen mortally in worldly rank, they lowered themselves humbly through the contempt of the world. Indeed, it is difficult to love God and the world at the same time, unless you are like the animal that has eyes both fore and aft, and no matter how careful it is, such an animal will suffer. People who are like Zacchaeus and Magdalene have chosen the safer part.”
This was a bailiff of Östergötland who came to the jubilee year more out of fear than of love. Concerning him, Christ says in Rome: ”Everyone who has escaped some danger should be careful not to fall back again into it. Overconfident sailors are at peril even in port. This man should thus beware of returning to his former office. Otherwise, if he is not careful, he will lose the object of his desires, the goods he has gathered will fall to strangers, his sons will not receive their inheritance, and he himself will die a painful death among foreigners.”

When he returned, however, he once again became a tax collector, and everything turned out as foretold.

St. Agnes's excellent instruction to the daughter about living in a good and praiseworthy fashion, and about avoiding a bad life displeasing to God. A carriage symbolizes here fortitude and patience; its four wheels symbolize these four virtues: the complete surrender of everything for God's sake, humility, loving God wisely, and restraining the flesh discerningly. Certain other things are also added about members of religious orders.

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