Today I’ll share with you two sacred poems from Mala of the Heart that I feel work together. The first, by Lalla of India, speaks to the nature of self-doubt and self-criticism as much as it questions how much value we place on the opinions of others. The second, by St. Catherine of Siena, casts those same types of questions in a different, more optimistic light, but with no less urgency.
When will my shame fall away?
When will I accept being mocked
and let my robe of dignity burn up?
When the wandering pony inside
comes calm to my hand.
What is it
you want to change?
Your hair, your face, your body?
For God is
in love with all those things
and He might weep
when they are
Lalla (Lal Diddi, Laleswari, Lal Ded) (est. 14th c.) was born in Kashmir in northern India. She was married at the age of twelve, and after years of harsh treatment at the hands of her mother-in-law and her husband, she left to live the life of a wandering devotee in the Shaivite tradition. Renouncing the world, Lalla expressed her joyful union with her beloved Lord through song and dance. The realizations of this great saint and mystic appeal to the hearts of people across cultural and religious barriers.
St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380, Italy) was born the youngest of twenty or more children to a wool dyer. It is said that at age six she was transformed by a vision of Jesus and three of his apostles. In her teens Catherine resisted the pressure to marry and became a Dominican nun. She was an ardent mystic and great Catholic saint who dictated her ideas on spirituality and devotion in what became known as her Letters. Catherine selflessly served the poor and eased the suffering of those who sought her counsel. In 1970, Pope Paul VI proclaimed St. Catherine a “Doctor of the Church.”
Both biographies are respectfully quoted from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt.