The verses below, compiled from scripture, were given to St Catherine de Ricci, a cloistered Dominican tertiary – our modern-day equivalent of apostolic Sisters – who lived in a convent in Florence in the sixteenth century. For a period of twelve years, St Catherine de Ricci experienced all the pains of Christ’s passion, suffering with him every week, from noon on Thursday until late afternoon on Friday. After the first of these mystical experiences, when she had received the sacred stigmata, Our Lady appeared to St Catherine and told her that she now understood and shared in Mary’s own sufferings as she stood by the cross of her son. Hence, she gave this compilation, called the ‘Canticle of the Passion’, to St Catherine and asked her to meditate on it, and so continue to grow in love for the crucified Lord Jesus. It became a tradition in the Dominican Order, and especially in the convents of enclosed Dominican nuns, to pray these verses every Friday in Lent.
My friends and my kinsmen
have approached and stood against me.
I was betrayed and I went not out.
My eyes have languished for weariness.
And my sweat has become
like drops of blood trickling down upon the earth.
Many dogs have surrounded me.
The council of the wicked has besieged me.
I gave my body to the scourgers
and my cheeks to be smitten.
I turned not away my face from those who upbraided me
and spat upon me –
because I am prepared for scourging
and my sorrow is ever before me.
The soldiers plaiting a crown of thorns
have placed it upon my head.
They have pierced my hands and my feet;
they have numbered all my bones.
And they gave me gall for food,
and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
All who saw me derided me;
they spoke with their lips, and wagged the head.
They have looked upon me and watched me;
they divided my vestments among them and upon my vesture they cast lots.
Into thy hands I commend my spirit.
Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, God of truth.
Remember thy servants, O Lord,
when thou comest into thy kingdom.
But Jesus, crying with a loud voice,
gave up his spirit.
The mercies of the Lord I will sing forever.
Surely he hath borne our infirmities
and carried our sorrows.
He was wounded for our iniquities;
he was bruised for our sins.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
every one hath turned aside, into his own way.
The Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all.
Arise, why sleepest thou, O Lord?
Arise and cast us not off to the end.
Behold, God is my Saviour;
I will deal confidently and will not fear.
We therefore beseech thee, O Lord, help thy servants
whom thou hast redeemed by thy precious blood.
V: Have mercy on us, O benign Jesus
R: Who hast lovingly suffered for us.
Look down, we beseech thee, O Lord, upon this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ did not refuse to be delivered into the hands of the wicked and to endure the torment of the cross. We ask this through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.
Image of St Catherine de Ricci © Fr Lawrence Lew OP
This blog is extracted from our book Lenten Devotions by Fr Lawrence Lew OP, which offers three powerful Lenten devotions: Stations of the Cross featuring photographs and meditations, the Canticle of the Passion based on words revealed to St Catherine de Ricci, and recollections on the seven last words of Jesus on the Cross.
Find more Lenten prayers and support the work of CTS by ordering your copy of Lenten Devotions today.