Translation — from Letter 16: To a Great Prelate, by St. Catherine of Siena

There’s a big kerfuffle going on with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Basically, some religion teachers want to simultaneously fight the Catholic Church and deny the truth of its ancient teachings in public, while continuing to collect paychecks from the Archdiocese and parishes for teaching religion when back at home. After years of this being acceptable behavior, Archbishop Pilarczyk made it known that it’s not. Whining ensues.

(I mean, I’m sorry they lost their jobs, but they really are like science teachers lobbying for the repeal of the law of gravity. What did they think would happen? And why would they have wanted to collect paychecks from an evil evil repressive Church hierarchy, if that was really what they thought it was? Wouldn’t they rather go be truckdrivers, doing honest work?)

Anyway, one of the ladies quoted St. Catherine of Siena to the other lady, under the impression that this quote was encouraging and supported their case. Everybody agreed that it was from Letter 16. So here’s how the given quote goes:

Cry [out] as if you have a million voices; it is silence that kills the world.

Well, I wondered about it, and set about finding Letter 16 to read the quote in context. I couldn’t find a public domain translation of this letter, so I made my own by hook and by crook (aka by Google Translate and by online dictionaries and texts). I intended to check with the standard English translation by Noffke, but the closest copies are in the parts of the local university library that are only open weekdays, 8-5. I work on weekdays! So… I didn’t get a chance to check this translation the way I would have liked to. However, the original Italian is on line and public domain, and here’s Letter 16. Fact-check me through that.

This letter is addressed “To a Great Prelate”. (His name doesn’t seem to be given, out of some discretion.) St. Catherine calls herself “servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ crucified” in the salutation.

She begins with reminding this particular prelate that Jesus not only loved us, but hungered to suffer and die for us more than even the Cross could provide. She urges the prelate to feel just as hungry for Jesus, and just as eager to suffer and die. (Very beautiful stuff.) And then she gets to the meat of the letter:

Alas, alas, my unfortunate soul! Open your eyes and regard the perversity of the death that has come into the world, and individually into the body of Holy Church. Alas, your heart and soul breaks to see so many offenses to God. Father, see how the infernal wolf does not carry off the creature, the little lambs that graze in the garden of Holy Church, and does not find him who moves to reduction of mouth. The shepherds sleep in their self-love, in greed and garbage; they are so drunk with pride that they sleep and do not feel it, because they see that the devil, infernal wolf, if he does not carry off the life of grace in them, takes that of their subjects. They do not care; and all the cause is the perversity of self-love. Oh, how dangerous is such love in prelates and subjects!

If he is a prelate and he has self-love, he does not correct the defect of his subjects; because he who loves himself for himself falls into servile fear, and therefore does not reprimand them. For if he loved himself through God, he would not fear with servile fear; but boldly, with a virile heart, he would reprimand defects, and not be silent nor make pretense of not seeing.

I wish you personally to have such love, dearest Father. I beg you to make it so, so that hard word will not be said to you as a reprimand from the First Truth, saying, “Cursed be you who were silent.”

Oh, be silent no more! Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues. I see that, through being silent, the world is spoiled, the Bride of Christ has paled, her color taken from her, because they have sucked the blood from her; that is to say, that the Blood of Christ that is given by grace and not by being owed, they plunder out of pride, taking the honor that is due to God, and damning to themselves; and so they steal through simony, selling gifts and graces that were given by grace, at the price of the Son of God’s Blood. Alas! how it kills me, but I can’t die.

Don’t sleep in negligence any longer. Act at the present time, however you can. I believe that there will come a time when you can no longer act; but now, at the present time, I invite you to strip your soul of all self-love, and dress it in hunger and real, true virtue, to the honor of God and the health of your soul. Be comforted in Christ Jesus’ sweet love, for soon we shall see the flowers. Study how the banner of the Cross may rise quickly, and don’t let your heart and affection fail through any inconvenience that you have seen coming; but be comforted more at that time, thinking how Christ crucified is the Maker and Taker of the pangs of desire of God’s servants. I say no more.

Remain in the holy and sweet love of God. Drown yourself in the Blood of Christ crucified; put yourself on the Cross with Christ crucified; hide yourself in the Wounds of Christ crucified; bathe yourself in the Blood of Christ crucified.

That’s pretty much the end of the letter, except for the sign-off.

I think you can see that it’s not exactly the kind of quote to use against an archbishop who has been out there reprimanding people, especially if you were one of the people who got reprimanded! :)

Oh, and if you like the vampire imagery above, you might like to know that John Florio’s 1611 Italian-English dictionary included an entry for a “succhia capra” — a chupacabra — which the dictionary claimed was a kind of bird also known as a “wind-sucker”, which sucked milk from goats’ udders. I know that my life has been enriched by this piece of data!

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