There are no devotions more important in the Christendom than those having to do with the Passion of Christ. The Catholic Church’s focus on the Passion may seem morbid to those outside of the Faith or even to Christians of other denominations; but, where else does Christ show His love for us more fully? What cost Him more? And we also hear about revelations from the saints recommending such devotions. For example, Christ told St. Albert the Great, the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas, that it pleased him more when a soul meditated for fifteen minutes on His Passion than if he were to fast every Friday on bread and water for a whole year.
Also, among Christians themselves a great many hardly give Our Lord a thought. Can you imagine the pain of dying for a group of people who would not care? Once Jesus Christ appeared to St. Bridget of Sweden–who was ten at the time, but would later become one of the most famous mystics of the Middle Ages–covered in terrible wounds. When she asked who had done this to Him, he replied: “Those who despise Me and are insensible to My love for them.” To the recently canonized St. Faustina, he revealed that, during the Agony in the Garden, the sight of so many souls who would remain in different to His Sacrifice is what caused Him to ask His Father if it were possible for this cup to pass from Him. So, we ought to especially remember the Passion because we see His love for us most in His most painful suffering and death and because we make reparation to Him for the mass of indifference most souls offer him.
But, why then am I going to recommend devotion to St. Mary’s Seven Sorrows? Isn’t devotion to Christ’s Passion more important? Of course, but let’s take a look at Mary’s Seven Sorrows before I answer this question more fully:
1. The Prophecy of Simeon
2. The Flight into Egypt
3. The Loss of Jesus in Jerusalem
4. Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross
5. The Crucifixion
6. The Descent of Jesus from the Cross
7. The Burial of Jesus
Notice that the suffering of Jesus or anxiety about Him is the cause of each one of these sorrows. So, we not only grieve over Mary’s sorrow, but we look at the sufferings of Our Lord from the standpoint of His mother. As much as is possible for us, we grieve for Our Lord as Mary did. This makes our other meditations on the Passion of Christ more fruitful, and we grow closer both to Jesus Christ and to the greatest saint who ever lived. And, St. Mary does not forget that we remember how much she suffered and prays for graces to flow copiously on souls who meditate on her sorrows.
The devotion consists of meditating on the Sorrows of Mary and saying one Hail Mary for each sorrow. Since I’m terrible at meditation, I usually say one Our Father and Seven Hail Maries, as in the Servite Rosary. This makes me feel like I spent enough time meditating on each sorrow. You can also use this set of prayers which were given to St. Bridget, either saying just one Hail Mary or one Our Father and seven Hail Maries. By the way, you only have to say the prayer beginning O God, come to my assistance… once. Of course, when struck by a great degree of spiritual aridity or distraction, I find it helpful to repeat it as many times as one needs.
May this devotion enrich your life!
I agree, though I am not Catholic in the current meaning of the word.
I have one thought, though, to add. I have known people, both Catholic and Protestant, to meditate and focus so much on the Passion and the sorrows that they are unable to embrace Joy. They feel that it is somehow wrong to be joyful in light of our Lord’s sacrifice and pain. I think this may wound him, too. To die in order to free someone, to save them, only for them to, supposedly for your sake, renounce the joy that should come from such a gift, would be terrible, though not so terrible as to have the gift rejected.
In shorter terms, I think we are called to return often to the cross, but I do not think we are to live there. After all, there is the resurrection, and ahead, still, the triumphal return. There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance,” Ecclesiastes 3:4
It’s something I need to remind myself of, quite often. I’m a depressive, and a recovering cynic, and only learned that Joy was something different and far more powerful than happiness a few years back. 🙂
I struggle with distraction, too, so your bit about repeating prayers… yeah, I do the same thing. Non-focusing brains are frustrating.
You accurately diagnose my error! Of late, I have thought that I’ve been emphasizing the Passion too much in my spirituality. But, I think that I have improved since I wrote this article. (Perhaps, it is time for me to rewrite it?) Now, I remember that joy exists and that that is what we are ultimately called to. Though, love cannot exist without suffering in this world; so I cannot but return to the cross when my suffering feels overwhelming. In the words of the Anima Christi: “Passio Christi, conforta me.
Also, I think that it is a writer’s lot to be depressed often. I just thank my stars that my life is better than poor Joseph Conrad’s. 🙂
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Certain kinds of writers, perhaps. It’s hard to look hard at the world and not be depressed, even when we know the grace of God.
Yes, it may be taken as a trial to be endured knowing that God will console us when the trial truly starts becoming more than we can endure. As St. Francis de Sales said, the whole science of the saints is simply to do and to suffer. Whoever does and suffers best will be the among the greatest saints.
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Perhaps, but I do not think that is the whole story… only part of it.
Definitely! But, the part most of us have the hardest time dealing with. 🙂
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