Letters of Maria Celeste:
18 October 1630
Most Beloved Lord Father
I am heartsick and worried, Sire, imagining how disturbed you must be over the sudden death of your poor unfortunate worker. I assume that you will use every possible precaution to protect yourself from the danger, and I fervently urge you to make great effort in this endeavor; I further believe that you possess remedies and preventatives proportionate to the present threat, wherefore I promise not to dwell on the subject. But still with all due respect and filial confidence I will exhort you to procure the best remedy of all, which is the grace of blessed God, by means of a thorough contrition and penitence. This, without doubt, is the most efficacious medicine, not only for the soul, but for the body as well: since, given that living happily is so crucial to the avoidance of contagious illness, what greater happiness could one secure in this life than the joy that comes of a clear and calm conscience?
It is certain that when we possess this treasure we will fear neither danger nor death; and since the Lord justly chastises us with these whips, we try, with His aid, to stand ready to receive the blow from that mighty hand, which, having magnanimously granted us the present life, retains the power to deprive us of it at any moment and in any manner. Please accept these few words proffered with an overflowing heart, Sire, and also be aware of the situation in which, by the Lord's mercy, I find myself, for I am yearning to enter the other life, as every day I see more plainly the vanity and misery of this one: in death I would stop offending blessed God, and I would hope to be able to pray ever more effectively, Sire, for you. I do not know but that this desire of mine may be too selfish. I pray the Lord, who sees everything, to provide through His compassion what I fail to ask in my ignorance, and to grant you, Sire, true consolation.
All of us here are in good physical health, save for Suor Violante, who is little by little wasting away: although indeed we are burdened by penury and poverty, which take their toll on us, still we are not made to suffer bodily harm, with the help of the Lord.
I am eager to know if you have had any response from Rome, regarding the alms you requested for us.
Signor Corso [Suor Giulia's brother] sent a weight of silk totaling 15 pounds, and Suor Arcangela and I have had our share of it.
I am writing at the seventh hour: I shall insist that you excuse me if I make mistakes, Sire, because the day does not contain one hour of time that is mine, since in addition to my other duties I have now been assigned to teach Gregorian chant to four young girls, and by Madonna's orders I am responsible for the day-to-day conducting of the choir: which last creates considerable labor for me, with my poor grasp of the Latin language. It is certainly true that these exercises are very much to my liking, if only I did not also have to work; yet from all this I do derive one very good thing, which is that I never ever sit idle for even one quarter of an hour. Except that I require sufficient sleep to clear my head. If you would teach me the secret you yourself employ, Sire, for getting by on so little sleep, I would be most grateful, because in the end the seven hours that I waste sleeping seem far too many to me.
I shall say no more so as not to bore you, adding only that I give you my loving greetings together with our usual friends.
From San Matteo, the 18th day of October 1630.
Your most affectionate daughter,
The little basket, which I sent you recently with several pastries, is not mine, and therefore I wish you to return it to me.
©1995 Al Van Helden