All the Martyrs, Theotimus, died for the love of God; for when we say that some of them died for the faith, we mean not that they died for a dead faith, but for the living faith, that is, quickened by charity. And again the confession of faith is not so much an act of the understanding and of faith, as an act of the will and of the love of God. And this is why the great S. Peter, keeping the faith in his soul on the day of the passion, yet lost charity, refusing in words to profess him to be his Master, whom in his heart he acknowledged to be such. But there were yet other Martyrs who died expressly for charity alone, as our Saviour's great Precursor, who was martyred for fraternal correction; and the glorious princes of the Apostles, S. Peter and S. Paul, and particularly S. Paul, died for having reclaimed those women to a pious and pure life whom the infamous Nero had led into sin. The holy Bishops Stanislaus and Thomas of Canterbury were slain for a matter that touched not faith, but charity. In fine a great part of the sacred Virgin-martyrs were slain for the zeal they had to preserve their chastity, which charity had caused them to dedicate to their heavenly spouse.
But some sacred lovers so absolutely give themselves over to the exercises of divine love, that this holy fire wastes and consumes their life. Grief does sometimes so long hinder the afflicted from eating, drinking, or sleeping, that in the end weakened and wasted they die; whence it is commonly said that such die of grief: but it is not so indeed; for they die through failure of strength, and inanition. Yet since this failure came through grief, we must allow that though they died not of grief, they died by reason of grief and by grief. So, my dear Theotimus, when the fervour of holy love is great, it gives so many assaults to the heart, so often wounds it, causes in it so many languors, melts it so habitually, and puts it so frequently into ecstasies and raptures, that by this means, the soul, almost entirely occupied in God, not being able to afford sufficient assistance to nature to effect digestion and nourish itself properly, the animal and vital spirits begin little by little to fail, life is shortened, and death takes place.
O God! Theotimus, how happy this death is! How delightful is this love-dart, which, wounding us with the incurable wound of heavenly love, makes us for ever pining and sick, with so strong a beating of the heart, that at length we must yield to death. How much, do you think, did these sacred languors and labours undergone for charity, advance the days of the divine lovers S. Catharine of Siena, S. Francis, young Stanislaus Kotska, S. Charles, and many hundreds more who died so young? Verily, as for S. Francis, from the time that he received the holy stigmata of his master, he had such violent and sharp pains, pangs, convulsions and illnesses, that he became mere skin and bone, and he seemed rather to be a skeleton, or a picture of death, than a man yet living and breathing.