Character Sketch – Riley Marie Seibold – A Mental Patient in Imatatio Christi

It’s the nineties. Riley is one of the people in the mental institution during my main character Adolai Shungyosai’s stay. She is the main secondary character in addition to Micah, aka ‘The Regular’. ‘The Regular’ is a frequent visitor to the inpatient ward, he finds it more comforting than the outside world. Riley has apparently been staying a few times on his watch.

“Riley is insane,” he tells Shungyosai.
“What do you mean?”
“She has reason to be,” the Regular says. “Her parents demand to keep her as daughter, but have no interest in loving her. Not for what she is. They’d rather she die to herself and come back to them a corpse than imagine her their daughter for what she is.”

Riley takes comfort in the life of one of the Saints of her parent’s religion. Saint Teresa of Avila. A mystic who experienced ecstasies. She remembered reading about her in school, as a noblewoman who was called to become a holy seeker.

She keeps books on her in her hospital room.

She reads from ‘The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus’ by the woman herself.

Childhood and Early Impressions. The Blessing of Pious Parents. Desire of Martyrdom. Death of the Saint’s Mother.

1. I had a father and mother, who were devout and feared God. Our Lord also helped me with His grace. All this would have been enough to make me good, if I had not been so wicked. My father was very much given to the reading of good books; and so he had them in Spanish, that his children might read them. These books, with my mother’s carefulness to make us say our prayers, and to bring us up devout to our Lady and to certain Saints, began to make me think seriously when I was, I believe, six or seven years old. It helped me, too, that I never saw my father and mother respect anything but goodness. They were very good themselves. My father was a man of great charity towards the poor, and compassion for the sick, and also for servants; so much so, that he never could be persuaded to keep slaves, for he pitied them so much: and a slave belonging to one of his brothers being once in his house, was treated by him with as much tenderness as his own children. He used to say that he could not endure the pain of seeing that she was not free. He was a man of great truthfulness; nobody ever heard him swear or speak ill of any one; his life was most pure.

2. My mother also was a woman of great goodness, and her life was spent in great infirmities. She was singularly pure in all her ways. Though possessing great beauty, yet was it never known that she gave reason to suspect that she made any account whatever of it; for, though she was only three-and-thirty years of age when she died, her apparel was already that of a woman advanced in years. She was very calm, and had great sense. The sufferings she went through during her life were grievous, her death most Christian. [1]

3. We were three sisters and nine brothers. [2] All, by the mercy of God, resembled their parents in goodness except myself, though I was the most cherished of my father. And, before I began to offend God, I think he had some reason,–for I am filled with sorrow whenever I think of the good desires with which our Lord inspired me, and what a wretched use I made of them. Besides, my brothers never in any way hindered me in the service of God.

4. One of my brothers was nearly of my own age; [3] and he it was whom I most loved, though I was very fond of them all, and they of me. He and I used to read Lives of Saints together. When I read of martyrdom undergone by the Saints for the love of God, it struck me that the vision of God was very cheaply purchased; and I had a great desire to die a martyr’s death,–not out of any love of Him of which I was conscious, but that I might most quickly attain to the fruition of those great joys of which I read that they were reserved in Heaven; and I used to discuss with my brother how we could become martyrs. We settled to go together to the country of the Moors, [4] begging our way for the love of God, that we might be there beheaded; [5] and our Lord, I believe, had given us courage enough, even at so tender an age, if we could have found the means to proceed; but our greatest difficulty seemed to be our father and mother.

She reads, and at times she feels the shakes of ecstasy come with tears. She is unsure of whether her love, confused with the authority of her parents, confused with God, confused with longing for death… will drive her mad… or somehow… someday… set her free. Her hope is monstrous, and tortures her, along with the hospital attendants. If God is listening, God too is a monster.

Would that she could not see quite so clearly the world. It is too much to bear for someone so young and full of faith.

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