To Matthew, the Legate
He excuses himself very skilfully for not having obeyed the summons to take part in settling certain affairs.
1. My heart was, indeed, prepared to obey; not so my body. It was burned up by the heats of an acute and violent fever, and exhausted by sweats, so that it was too weak to carry out the impulse of the spirit. I wished, then, to go, but my good will was hindered by the obstacle which I have mentioned. Whether this was truly so, let my friends themselves judge, who, disregarding every excuse that I can make, avail themselves of the bonds of obedience to my superiors to draw me out of my cloister into cities. I beg them to remark that this reason is not a pretext of my own invention, but a cause of much suffering to me; that they may thus learn that no project can prevail against the will of God. If I should reply to them, I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them? (Cant. v.3), they would at once be indignant. But now let them either object to or acquiesce in the ruling of Providence, for it is that which has brought about, that even if I wish to go forth, I am not in health to do so.
2. But the cause is great, they say, the necessity weighty. They must, then, have recourse to some one suitable to settle great matters. If they think me such an one, I not only think, but know, that I am not. Futhermore, whether the matters are great or small, to which they so earnestly invite me, they are not my concern. Now, I inquire, Are the matters easy or difficult which you are so anxious to lay upon your friend, to the troubling of his peace? If easy, they can be settled without me; if difficult, they cannot be dealt with by me, unless, perhaps, I am so estimated as to be thought capable of doing what no one else can do, and for whom great and impossible affairs are to be reserved. But if it be so, O Lord my God, how are Thy designs so frustrated in me only? Why hast Thou put under a bushel the lamp, which could shine upon a candlestick; or, to speak more plainly, why hast Thou made me a monk and hidden me in Thy sanctuary during the day of evil, if I were a man necessary to the world, without whom bishops are not able to transact their business? But this, again, is a service that my friends have done me, that now I seem to speak with discomposure to a man whom I am accustomed to think of with serenity, and with the utmost pleasure. But you know (I say it to you, my father) that so far from feeling angry, I am prepared to keep your commands. But it will be a mark of your indulgence to spare me whenever you find it possible to do so.