St. Catherine of Siena: The world is rotten because of silence

We’ve had enough exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a thousand tongues-I see the world is rotten because of silence.

Attr. St. Catherine of Siena

The quotation doesn’t sound implausibly attributed to her, but can it be shown to be authentic?

I will spare you the details of my long and fruitless search. Eventually, I semi-punted and asked an Italian-speaking friend, Fr. Bryan Jerabek, for help, hoping it would be easier to find it in Italian. He told me that medieval Italian is not the same as modern Italian, but he’d look anyhow, And, ecco!

It’s her letter #16, to an unidentified “great prelate” (perhaps Cardinal Pietro of Ostia.) That letter doesn’t seem to be on the Internet in English, which is why I couldn’t find it. You can see the medieval Italian version here. The relevant passage is as follows:

Oimè, non più tacere! Gridate con cento migliaia di lingue. Veggo che, per tacere, il mondo è guasto, la Sposa di Cristo è impallidita, toltogli è il colore, perchè gli è succhiato il sangue da dosso, cìoè che il sangue di Cristo, che è dato per grazia e non per debito.

Fr. Jerabek renders that as:

Be silent no more! Cry out with one hundred thousand tongues. I see that, because of this silence, the world is in ruins, the Spouse of Christ has grown pale; the color is taken from her face because her blood has been sucked out, that is the blood of Christ, which is given as a free gift and not by right.

So the currently-circulating version of the quotation is not quite accurate. “We’ve had enough exhortations to be silent” doesn’t appear (I suspect it got tacked on when someone used St. Catherine’s words in response to an exhortation to silence), and it’s 100K tongues, not simply 1,000. But I’m going to call the rest of it close enough.