instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, April 29, 2004

You know how to, and You can, and You want to

St. Catherine of Siena had a large group of devoted followers, some of whom wrote down many of the words she uttered spontaneously while deep in prayer. Several collections of these prayers were produced in the years following her death; Suzanne Noffke, OP, has edited an English translation of the complete set of 26 prayers which can be browsed on-line before purchase.

One striking feature of St. Catherine's prayers is how Trinitarian they are. Not for her a pro forma "through Christ our Lord, amen," or an "and the Holy Spirit" squeezed in toward the end. She prayed as though she knew personally the Persons to Whom she prayed.

Prayer 5, below, seems to have been offered during a time when people were accusing her of political plotting. (In a letter, she wrote of the rumor-mongers, "They are telling the truth without knowing it. They are prophesying. For there is nothing I want to do, or want those with me to do, except to plot to defeat the devil and snatch from him the control over people that he has seized because of deadly sin, and to plot to take hatred from their hearts and reconcile them with Christ crucified and with their neighbors. These are the plots we are about, and I want all who are with me to be about these plots.")
Eternal Father, Power, help me!
Son of God, Wisdom, enlighten the eye of my understanding!
Holy Spirit, tender Mercy, enflame my heart and unite it to Yourself!

I proclaim, eternal God, that Your power is powerful and strong enough to free your Church and your people, to snatch us from the devil's hand, to stop the persecution of Holy Church, and to give me strength and victory over my own enemies.
I proclaim that the wisdom of Your Son, Who is one with You, can enlighten the eye of my understanding and that of your people, and can relieve the darkness of your sweet bride.
And I proclaim, eternal gentle goodness of God, that the mercy of the Holy Spirit, Your blazing charity, wants to enflame my heart, and everyone's, and unite them with Yourself.

Eternal Father, Power, with the Wisdom that is Your only-begotten Son in His precious Blood, and the Mercy that is Your Holy Spirit, fire and deep well of charity that held this Son fixed and nailed to the cross --
You know how to, and You can, and You want to, so I plead with You:
Have mercy on the world and restore the warmth of charity and peace and unity to Holy Church.

I wish You would not delay any longer!
I beg You, let Your infinite goodness force You not to close the eye of Your mercy!
Gentle Jesus!
Jesus love!
Has there been a day since these words were first spoken when this prayer was not timely?

[In a note on the text, by the way, Noffke points out the implicit Trinitarianism of the formula, "You know how to [=wisdom=Son], and You can[=power=Father], and You want to[=will=love=HolySpirit]." Doctor of the Church, indeed!]