The king of the realm had three sons. The first son loved the maiden and offered her golden shoes and a golden belt, a ring for her hand and a crown for her head.
The second son coveted the property of the maiden and robbed her.
The third son coveted her maidenhood and sought to rape her.
The king's three sons were captured by the maiden's nine brothers and presented to the king. Her brothers told him: 'Your sons desired our sister. The first honored and loved her with his whole heart. The second one despoiled her. The third was ready to risk his life just to rape her. They were seized at the very moment when they were fully intent on carrying out what we have said.'
Once the king heard this, he answered them, saying: 'They are all my sons, and I love all of them equally. However, I neither can nor wish to go against justice. Instead I intend to judge my sons as I would my servants.
You, my son, who wanted to honor the maiden, come and receive honor and the crown along with your father!
You, my son, who coveted the maiden's property and snatched it away, you shall go to prison until the stolen goods have been restored. Indeed, I have heard evidence concerning you that you were sorry for your crime and would have returned the stolen goods, but were prevented from doing so by your sudden and unexpected arrest. For this reason you will remain incarcerated until the last farthing is restored.
But you, my son, who made every attempt to rape this maiden, are not sorry for your crime. Therefore, your punishment will be multiplied by the number of ways in which you attempted to deflower the maiden.'
All the brothers of the maiden answered: 'May you, the judge, be praised for your justice! For you would never have issued such a judgment had there not been virtue in you and fairness in your justice and mercy in your fairness.'
The maiden symbolizes the holy Church. She is by nature outstanding by reason of her faith, beautiful by reason of the seven sacraments, laudable by reason of her conduct and virtue, lovable by reason of her fruits, for she reveals the true way to eternity.
The holy Church has three sons, so to speak, and these three stand for many.
The first are those who love God with their whole heart.
The second are those who love temporal goods for their own honor.
The third are those who put their own will ahead of God. The maidenhood of the Church represents human souls created solely by divine power.
Accordingly, the first son offers golden shoes by having contrition for his misdeeds, omissions, and sins. He offers clothes by following the precepts of the law and keeping the evangelical counsels as far as possible. He puts together a belt by firmly resolving to persevere in continence and chastity. He places a ring on her hand by firmly believing in what the Catholic Church teaches about the future judgment and life everlasting.
The gem of the ring is hope, steadfastly hoping that no sin is so abominable that it cannot be wiped away through penance and the resolution to improve.
He puts a crown on her head by having true charity. Just as a crown has various jewels, so too charity has various virtues. And the head of the soul or, rather, of the Church is My Body. Whoever loves and reverences It is rightly called a son of God.
A person who loves the holy Church and his own soul in such away has nine brothers, that is, the nine orders of angels, for he will be their companion and fellow in eternal life. The angels embrace the holy Church with all their love, as if she were in the heart of each one of them. It is not stones and walls that make up the holy Church but the souls of the righteous, and, for this reason, the angels rejoice over their honor and progress as though over their own.
The second brother or, rather, son, represents those who reject the authority of the holy Church and live for worldly honor and the love of the flesh, who deform the beauty of virtue and live after their own desires, but repent toward the end and are sorry for their evil deeds. They must go to Purgatory until they can be reconciled to God through the works and prayers of the Church.
The third son represents those who are a scandal to their own soul, not caring whether they perish forever, as long as they can carry out their desires. The nine orders of angels seek justice because of these people, inasmuch as they refuse to be converted through penance.
Thus, when God delivers His sentence, the angels praise Him for His unbending fairness. When God's honor is thus perfected, they rejoice over His might, because even the evil of evil men serves to give Him honor. This is why, when you see immoral persons, you should have compassion on them and rejoice over the eternal honor of God. God does not will anything evil, for He is the Creator of all things and the only being truly good in Himself, but, as a most just judge, He still permits many things to be done in regard to which He is honored in Heaven and on earth on account of His fairness and His hidden goodness."
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Revelations and Prophesies Imparted to St. Bridget of Sweden - Book Three: Chapter Twenty-Four