“I am the least puppy barking under the table…” is how the humble mystic Catherine of Bologna introduces herself in Seven Spiritual Weapons, an autobiography and spiritual guidebook of the 15th century. To combat devils that appear as angels, Catherine advocates a “mistrust of self,” cognizance of death, and submission to the authority of scripture.
It’s a moving text. Catherine shares her experiences in order to remind us not to put too much stock in human experiences; using spiritual weapons, you can cloister your mind. And she certainly preferred the physical cloisters as well: both times Catherine was forced to leave the convent she first entered at age 13, her body fell limp and she had to be carried out.
(Some modern commentators interpret Catherine’s story, from the way she belittled herself to her refusal to go outside, as a battle against clinical depression.)