Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Prayer to Saint Catherine

While going through my sheet music, I found a lovely song called "A Prayer to Saint Catherine," by Virgil Thomson, which I first heard a few years ago when a colleague in my doctoral program sang it in her dissertation recital. It's a setting of a poem by the influential New York poet Kenneth Koch. The song is wistfully conversational, and I remember being moved to tears by my colleague's simple, straightforward, and self-effacing performance of it, which seems just right for the charming but heartfelt text.

If I am to be preserved from heartache
and shyness
By Saint Catherine of Siena,
I am praying to her that she will hear my
And treat me in every way with kindness.

I went to Siena to Saint Catherine's
own church
(It is impossible to deny this)
To pray to her to cure me of my heartache
and shyness,
Which she can do, because she is a
great saint.

Other saints would regard my prayer
as foolish.
Saint Nicolas, for example.
He would chuckle, "God helps those who
help themselves,
Rouse yourself! Get out there and do
something about it!"

Or Saint Joanna. She would say, "It is
not shyness
That bothers you. It is sin.
Pray to Catherine of Siena." But that is
what I have done.
And that is why I have come here to cure
my heartache.

Saint Catherine of Siena,
If this song pleases you, then be good
enough to answer the prayer it contains.
Make the person that sings this song less
shy than that person is,
And give that person some joy in that
person's heart.

1 comment:

Tee said...

I was searching the internet to see if there is a patron saint of shyness and came upon this. Really lovely. Thanks for sharing it.