Today is St. Catherine of Siena’s feast day. She is the patron saint of this blog. I came across this poem in the April 2016 edition of the devotional magazine Magnificat, supposedly written by St. Catherine herself. The poem was translated by Dr. Lisa M. Vitale of Southern Connecticut University and published in 2012. I hope she doesn’t mind me posting it.
I’m not actually sure where St. Catherine wrote this. It looks like it’s one of her prayers, which you can read in translation by Suzzane Nofke in The Prayers of Catherine of Siena. Magnificat credits the work in something called Magliabechiano-Strozziana XXXVIII. I just don’t know what that is.
Here is the poem:
The One Who Calls Us Friends
Oh transformed love
Of Lord God servant and Creator created
Too much of a dark thing it appears
Seeing God so humbled
Thinking of your greatness oh my Lord
The heart lowers itself in the body I shake so
Seeing you mortal man being God
Enclosed in the womb of a poor young girl
My faith turns to nothing
Thinking of your greatness so removed
If not it appears that ease opposed
Crying out God, God, you are crazy
And with enflamed desire
You go searching for who the young woman is
Who in herself enclosed this true Word
With the eyes of the mind of a girl
I see she is closed in a cell
Alone worthy of having him
Such a humble daughter
Who joined the lover to the loved
And I looking at this holy Virgin
In whom I see no flaw
Looking at her from her head down to her feet
So the more I look at her the more she gives me delight
Pregnant in appearance
She shows me and is always with eyes lowered
And I her servant she makes
And I find myself bound by her love.
I see well what commodity and the cost of you
The price that cost you when
The good Jesus was put on the cross for you
In order that he pay for you the infernal banishment
To the heart goes sighing
Looking up at Jesus on the cross and strongly languishing
She looks at the shed blood
With which you were repurchased from death.
It’s interesting that St. Catherine sees the young Virgin “closed in a cell” (l. 17). Catherine herself was closed in a cell for a number of years as a young woman, partly self-imposed but partly because she refused to marry and that is where her parents forced her to live.
Keep St. Catherine of Siena in mind on her feast day. And do look up some of her wonderful works. And kudos to Dr. Vitale for this. It’s not easy to translate poetry.