"O Mary, I have been unkind, but still I call you to my aid. I pray to you that you may graciously pray for the excellent and holy city of Rome. I can physically see that some of the churches are abandoned where the bones of the saints lie in rest. Some of them are inhabited, but the heart and conduct of their rectors are far from God. Procure mercy for them, for I have heard it is written that there are seven thousand martyrs for any day in the year at Rome. Although their souls do not receive less honor in Heaven because their bones are held in contempt here on earth, nevertheless I ask you that greater honor may be given to your saints and to the relics of your saints here on earth and that the devotion of the people may be stirred up in this way."
The Mother answered: "If you measured out a plot of land a hundred feet in length and as much in width and sowed it so full of pure grains of wheat that the grains were so close together that there was just the space of a thumb left between them, and even if each grain gave fruit a hundredfold, there would still be more Roman martyrs and confessors from the time when Peter came to Rome in humility until Celestine left from the throne of pride and returned to his solitary life.
But I am referring to those martyrs and confessors who against infidelity preached true fidelity and against pride preached humility and who died or were ready in intention to die for the truth of the faith. Peter and many others were so wise and zealous in spreading the word of God that they would readily have died for each and every person if they had been able. However, they were also concerned lest they be taken suddenly from the presence of those people whom they nourished with their words of consolation and preaching, for they desired to save souls more than to save their own lives and reputation. They were also prudent and hence went to work in secret during times of persecution in order to win and gather together a greater number of souls. Between these two, I mean, between Peter and Celestine, not everyone has been good, but not everyone has been bad either.
Now let us set up three degrees or ranks, as you yourself were doing: positive, comparative, and superlative, or good, better, and best.
To the first rank belong those whose thoughts were the following: 'We believe whatever the holy Church teaches. We do not want to defraud anyone but to give back whatever has been fraudulently taken, and we want to serve God with all our heart.' There were people like that in the time of Romulus, the founder of Rome, and, after their own beliefs, they thought as follows: 'We understand and recognize through creatures that God is the Creator of all things and therefore we want to love him above all else.' There were also many who thought like this: 'We have heard from the Hebrews that the true God has revealed Himself through manifest miracles. So, if we only knew where to place our trust, we would place it there.' We can say that all of these belonged to the first rank.
At the appointed time, Peter arrived in Rome. He raised some people to the positive rank, others to the comparative rank, and still others to the superlative. To the positive rank belonged those who accepted the true faith and lived in matrimony or in another honorable state. To the comparative rank belonged those who gave up their possessions out of love for God, and set others the example of a good life in words and example and deed and did not put anything ahead of Christ. To the superlative rank belonged those who offered their physical lives out of love for God. But let us make a search of these ranks to find out where there is now a more fervent love of God. Let us search among the knights and the learned. Let us search among the religious and those who have scorned the world. These people would be thought to belong to the comparative and superlative ranks. Yet, indeed, very few are found.
There is no life more austere than the life of a knight, if he truly follows his calling. While a monk is obliged to wear a cowl, a knight is obliged to wear something heavier, namely, a coat of mail. While it is hard for a monk to fight against the will of the flesh, it is harder for a knight to go forth among armed enemies. While a monk must sleep on a hard bed, it is harder still for the knight to sleep with his weapons. While a monk finds abstinence a burden and trouble, it is harder for the knight to be constantly burdened by fear for his life. Christian knighthood was not established out of greed for worldly possessions but in order to defend the truth and spread the true faith. For this reason, the knightly rank and the monastic rank should be thought to correspond to the superlative or comparative rank. However, those in every rank have deserted their honorable calling, since the love for God has been perverted into worldly greed. If but a single florin were offered them, most of them in all three ranks would keep silent about the truth rather than lose the florin and speak the truth."
The bride speaks again: "I also saw what looked like many gardens on earth. I saw roses and lilies in the gardens. In one spacious plot of land I saw a field a hundred feet in length and as much in width. In each foot of land there were seven grains of wheat sown and each grain gave fruit a hundredfold.
Then I heard a voice saying: 'O Rome, Rome, your walls have crumbled. Your city gates are therefore unguarded. Your vessels are being sold. Your altars have therefore been abandoned. The living sacrifice along with the incense of matins is burned in the portico. The sweet and holy fragrance does not come from the holy of holies.' "
At once the Son of God appeared and said to the bride: "I will tell you the meaning of the things you have seen. The land you saw represents the entire territory where the Christian faith is now. The gardens represent those places where God's saints received their crowns. However, in paganism, that is, in Jerusalem and in other places, there were many of God's elect, but their places have not been shown to you now. The field that is a hundred paces in length and as much in width stands for Rome. If all the gardens of the whole world were to be brought alongside Rome, Rome would certainly be as great as to the number of martyrs (I am speaking materially), because it is the place chosen for the love of God.
The wheat you saw in each foot of land represents those who have entered Heaven through mortification of the flesh, contrition, and innocence of life. The few roses represent the martyrs who are red from the blood they shed in different regions. The lilies are the confessors who preached and confirmed the holy faith by word and deed. Today I can say of Rome what the prophet said of Jerusalem: 'Once righteousness lodged in her and her princes were princes of peace. Now she has turned to dross and her princes have become murderers.'
O Rome, if you knew your days, you would surely weep and not rejoice. Rome was in olden days like a tapestry dyed in beautiful colors and woven with noble threads. Its soil was dyed in red, that is, in the blood of martyrs, and woven, that is, mixed with the bones of the saints. Now her gates are abandoned, in that their defenders and guardians have turned to avarice. Her walls are thrown down and left unguarded, in that no one cares that souls are being lost. Rather, the clergy and the people, who are the walls of God, have scattered away to work for carnal advantage. The sacred vessels are sold with scorn, in that God's sacraments are administered for money and worldly favors.
The altars are abandoned, in that the priest who celebrates with the vessels has hands empty as to love for God but keeps his eyes on the collection; although he has God in his hands, his heart is empty of God, for it is full of the vain things of the world. The holy of holies, where the highest sacrifice used to be consumed, represents the desire to see and enjoy God. From this desire, there should rise up love for God and neighbor and the fragrance of temperance and virtue. However, the sacrifice is now consumed in the portico, that is, in the world, in that the love for God has completely turned into worldly vanity and lack of temperance.
Such is Rome, as you have seen it physically. Many altars are abandoned, the collection is spent in taverns, and the people who give to it have more time for the world than for God. But you should know that countless souls ascended into Heaven from the time of humble Peter until Boniface ascended the throne of pride. Yet Rome is still not without friends of God. If they were given some help, they would cry out to the Lord and He would have mercy on them."
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Revelations and Prophesies Imparted to St. Bridget of Sweden - Book Three: Chapter Twenty-Seven