“Ah me! You cause them to cry in order to hear their voices! Your truth told us to cry out, and we should be answered; to knock, and it would be opened to us; to beg, and it would be given to us. Oh! Eternal Father, Your servants do cry out to Your mercy; do You then reply.
—St. Catherine of Genoa, 1447-1510, Treatise of Prayer
1 John 4:1-6 NASB
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Hildegard wrote to the laity as well as to clerics and religious. In the early 1150s she tells a countess that simply thinking about doing good was not enough:
“The person who does good works sees God, but the one who has a mere thought about good works is like a mirror in which an image is reflected, but the image is not really there. So rise up and begin good works and bring them to perfection, and God will receive you.
But you will respond: “I have a husband, and I am of the secular world. What is this you are calling me to?”
But in response I say that you should have mercy and benevolence and virtue (which tramples pride underfoot). And, also, you should stretch out your hand to the weak and to those prostrated with troubles, and you should be lenient to those who sin against you…, and you should not slay God in the face, that is, begrudge the happiness God gave to others, lest you fall because of envy.
Then, you will live.
—Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179, The letters of Hildegard of Bingen, Trans. Joseph L. Baird & Rodd K. Ehrman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994)