Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Earlier in the year, on the Friday before Good Friday, we had our first Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. With that feast, we focused on Mary's pain as she watched her Son go through His Passion. On September's feast of the Seven Sorrows, we meditate on the seven sorrows representative of the sufferings she endured throughout her earthly life as the Mother of Christ.

Those seven sorrows are:

The Circumcision and Prophecy of Simeon
The Flight into Egypt
The Loss of Jesus in the Temple
The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross
The Crucifixion
The Taking Down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross
Jesus is laid in the Tomb

These seven sorrows are often represented in art by a sword -- or three or seven swords -- piercing Mary's immaculate heart. This relates to the prophecy of the old man Simeon we heard about at Candlemas, when, after Our Lady pesented the Child Jesus at the Temple, he told her, "Behold this Child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed."


In preparation for this feast, many pray the Novena in Honor of the Dolors of the Blessed Virgin, starting on September 6 and ending on September 14, the eve of this Feast. For the feast itself, the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows (the Servite Rosary) or the Litany to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows would be perfect, as would this prayer by St. Bonaventure:

O most holy Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the overwhelming grief you experienced when you witnessed the martyrdom, the crucifixion and the death, of your divine Son, look upon me with eyes of compassion and awaken in my heart a tender commiseration for those sufferings, as well as a sincere detestation of my sins, in order that, being disengaged from all undue affection for the passing joys of this earth, I may sigh after the eternal Jerusalem and that henceforward all my thoughts and all my actions may be directed towards this one most desirable object, the honour, glory and love to our divine Lord Jesus, and to you, the Holy and Immaculate Mother of God. Amen.

Note that the entire month of September is dedicated to the Seven Sorrows (or "Dolors") of Mary.

For musical inspiration, consider Hor ch'è tempo di dormire from Curtio precipitato et altri capricii, libro secondo -- Opus 13 -- written in 1638 by Tarquino Merulo. It's a lullaby with a hypnotic, gently rocking, two-note bass line in a haunting, minor key, and it is sung by Mary to her Son when He was a baby. It reminds us that His fate was known to her all along. She was not only familiar with Old Testament prophecies, but she heard what Simeon had to say when she redeemed Christ at the Temple, which we recall on Candlemas. As St. Alphonsus Liguori writes in the section on Mary's dolors in "The Glories of Mary" (which section you can read in full below):

[T]he afflicted mother, knowing all that her Son would have to suffer, when suckling him, thought of the gall and vinegar; when she swathed him, of the cords with which he was to be bound; when she bore him in her arms, she thought of him being nailed to the cross; and when he slept, she thought of his death. As often as she put on him his clothes, she reflected that they would one day be torn from him, that he might be crucified; and when she beheld his sacred hands and feet, and thought of the nails that were to pierce them, as Mary said to St. Bridget: "My eyes filled with tears, and my heart was tortured with grief."

This song captures that reality perfectly. It is a very strange song, one that sounds as if it had been written in the 20th century, perhaps for the soundtrack of a Kubrick film, and it is deeply moving, with heartbreaking lyrics that make very real in the listener's mind the suffering Our Lady endured:

Hor ch'è tempo di dormire
Dormi dormi figlio e non vagire,
Perchè, tempo ancor verrà
Che vagir bisognerà
Deh ben mio deh cor mio Fa,
Fa la ninna ninna na

Chiudi, quei lumi divini
Come fan gl'altri bambini,
Perchè tosto oscuro velo
Priverà di lume il cielo
Deh ben mio deh cor mio Fa,
Fa la ninna ninna na

Over prendi questo latte
Dalle mie mammelle intatte
Perchè ministro crudele
Ti prepara aceto e fiele
Deh ben mio deh cor mio Fa,
Fa la ninna ninna na

Amor mio sia questo petto
Hor per te morbido letto
Pria che rendi ad alta voce
L'alma al Padre su la croce
Deh ben mio deh cor mio Fa,
Fa la ninna ninna na

Posa hor queste membra belle
Vezzosette e tenerelle
Perchè poi ferri e catene
Gli daran acerbe pene
Deh ben mio deh cor mio Fa,
Fa la ninna ninna na

Queste mani e questi piedi
Ch'or con gusto e gaudio vedi
Ahimè com'in varij modi
Passeran acuti chiodi

Questa faccia gratiosa
Rubiconda hor più di rosa
Sputi e schiaffi sporcheranno
Con tormento e grand'affano

Ah con quanto tuo dolore
Sola speme del mio core
Questo capo e questi crini
Passeran acuti spini

Ah ch'in questo divin petto
Amor mio dolce diletto
Vi farà piaga mortale
Empia lancia e disleale

Dormi dunque figliol mio
Dormi pur redentor mio
Perchè poi con lieto viso
Ci vedrem in Paradiso

Hor che dorme la mia vita
Del mio cor gioia compita
Taccia ognun con puro zelo
Taccian sin la terra e'l Cielo

E fra tanto io che farò
Il mio ben contemplerò
Ne starò col capo chino
Sin che dorme il mio Bambino
Now that it’s time to sleep,
sleep, son, and don’t cry;
for the time will come soon enough
when crying is needed.
O my dearest, my heart:
lullaby and sleep now.

Close those divine eyes
as other babies do;
for soon a dark veil
will deprive the sky of light
O my dearest, my heart
lullaby and sleep now.

Or take this milk
from my immaculate breasts;
for a cruel magistrate
is preparing vinegar and gall for you.
O my dearest, my heart
lullaby and sleep now.

My love, let this breast
be now a soft bed for you,
before, with a loud voice, you give
your soul to the Father, on the cross.
O my dearest, my heart
lullaby and sleep now.

Rest now your beautiful small limbs,
so charming and delicate;
for later, irons and chains
will cause them bitter pains.
O my dearest, my heart
lullaby and sleep now.

These hands and feet,
which now you behold with zest and joy–
alas, in how many ways
will sharp nails pierce them!

This graceful face,
ruddier than a rose–
spitting and slaps will defile it
with torture and great suffering.

Ah, with how much pain for you,
O only hope of my heart,
this head and this brow
will be pierced by sharp thorns.

For in this divine breast,
O my sweet and delightful love,
an impious traitorous spear
will make a mortal wound.

Sleep, therefore, my son,
sleep then, my Savior;
for later with joyful faces
we’ll see each other in Paradise.

Now that you are sleeping, O my life,
O complete joy of my heart,
let all be quiet with pure zeal,
even the earth and the heavens.

Meanwhile, what shall I do?
I will watch my dear,
not letting my head bow
as long as my baby sleeps.

In some places, the "Via Matris" (the "Way of the Mother") like the "Via Crucis" ("Way of the Cross") may be found, with seven stations at which one may see artistic representations of and meditate on each of Mary's sorrows. Such a devotion can be made in one's Mary Garden or home if it isn't publicly available. Or you can meditate on Our Lady's sorrows below. The readings are by Donald Fantz, of Angelus Magazine.

Via Matris

The First Sorrow: The Circumcision and Simeon's Prophecy

Every life has elements of mixed joy and sorrow. Certainly Mary and Joseph are filled with joy as they travel the day's journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to offer Mary's First-Born to the service of His Father. According to Jewish custom, they "ransomed" Him back by offering two turtle doves as sacrifices to Almighty God. The joy of Mary seems to overflow as the aged Simeon receives her in the Temple and, taking the Child from her arms, looks heavenward with praise to the Almighty for sparing him until he saw the salvation "prepared before the faces of all peoples: a light of revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for Thy people Israel."

From the height of her joy, Mary's heart suddenly sinks, as Simeon glances first to the Child, then straight into her eyes. "This Child is set for the rise and the fall of many ... a sign of contradiction . . . thine own soul a sword shall pierce . . ." Mary knows that her Son is to suffer. She knows that He will be lifted up. Simeon makes it painfully clear, as he reminds her of her Son's mission. "She pondered these things in her heart."

O, Mary, help me to understand the purpose of suffering in my life.

Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt

After returning to Bethlehem, the Holy Family is visited by the Magi. Shortly after their departure, Joseph is warned by an angel to "take the Child and His Mother and flee into Egypt." Already, jealous Herod's soldiers seek the Child. Joseph and Mary hurry a few blocks from their temporary home to a nearby cave, where Mary nurses her Babe in what has since become known to the local people as the "Milk Grotto." As they continue their journey out of town and head towards the Egyptian border, the terrible sounds of the slaughter ring in Mary's ears. Even Rachel mourns from her grave the Innocents of Bethlehem. Mary wonders: "Is this to be His time, at this age?" The only alternative is to flee quickly to the unfriendly Egyptians, the former captors of her people. Is it possible that only the Sphinx looks down in silent approval as they pass into Pharoah's land? Jeremia the Prophet speaks for Mary: "Bitterly she weeps at night, tears upon her cheeks, with not one to console her of all her dear ones; her friends have all betrayed her and become her enemies. 'Look, O Lord, upon my distress: all within me is in ferment, my heart recoils within me from my monstrous rebellion. In the streets the sword bereaves, at home death stalks. Give heed to my groaning; there is no one to console me.' " And yet, through this trial Mary still has Emmanuel with her. She knows that all will be accomplished in God's time. This gives her the security of peace in her sorrow. The Scripture will be fulfilled: "I have called My Son out of Egypt, that salvation may come to Israel."

O, Mary, help me to stay close to your Divine Son when I feel most abandoned.

Third Sorrow: The Loss of Jesus

Again, the joy of traveling, this time for several days, from Nazareth to the Temple in Jerusalem for the great feast. These were especially happy times for Mary, reunited with her own people, living with Jesus and Joseph. The feast ends; the return to Nazareth commences in the early morning. The caravan of women moves ahead north of the Holy City. The men follow in their caravan. They sing Psalms praising God, exchange news and laughter, as the trip progresses. Both groups meet in their encampment at the end of the day. As night falls, Mary and Joseph find each other and realize with horror that Christ is not in their company. They search through both camps to no avail. "Have you seen Him? He is only twelve years old." Each time the reply is negative. Mary remembers the words of Simeon and the Lamentations of Jeremia the Prophet: "The Lord has done as He decreed: He has fulfilled the threat He set forth from days of old; He has destroyed and had no pity, letting the enemy gloat over you and exalting the horn of your foes. Cry out to the Lord; moan, O daughter of Sion! Let your tears flow like a torrent day and night; let there be no respite for you, no repose for your eyes." Mary feels terror and panic. "This must be His hour," she thinks. In His boyhood hurts, even in the flight to Egypt, Jesus was with her. Now, for the first time, He is gone. Nonetheless, she knows that the Eternal Father knows all things, and this gives her peace. Her confidence is rewarded three days later when she and Joseph find Jesus in the midst of the doctors in the Temple.

O Mary, help me to keep peace of soul, even when searching for Jesus in my life.

Fourth Sorrow: Mary meets Jesus on the Road to Calvary

It is coming soon. She senses that now. The Pharisees have become increasingly resentful towards Him. She is praying over these things when the knock comes at the door. "They have taken Him! They have taken Him!" She wraps her veil tightly around her face and runs into the night with her friend. They reach Caiphas' house in time to see Jesus pushed up the steps. She overhears Peter: "I know not the Man!" She meets John, who leads her towards the praetorium of Pilate. She waits through the night as reports are brought to her of Jesus' scourging. Once again Simeon's words thrust at her as so many arrows. She prays the psalm: "My heart has become like wax melting away within my bosom." The long night passes into gray dawn and still she keeps her vigil. Then she hears Pilate's words to the crowd from the arch: "Behold the Man!" She can scarcely recognize Him as the crowd roars for His death. He does not yet see her. She wants it that way— to spare Him the pain. She sees the rough cross-timber dragged to a point below the arch. She watches the soldiers laughingly lead her Son to the cross. He can scarcely walk. He stumbles, He falls—He opens up more wounds, as if that were possible! She sees the seamless robe she has woven for Him years ago- now a mass of blood and flesh, clinging to His Body. His face is misshapen and swollen. She cannot move. He is pushed forward by the soldiers. He walks a few more feet, and then He sees her! Mary does not restrain herself. She kisses Him softly through her tears and reminds Him of her love for Him. "Their looks became as swords, to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly."

O, Mother of God, teach me to behold Jesus in His sorrows when I am most tempted to sin.

Fifth Sorrow: Mary Sees Jesus Die on the Cross

"Yes, truly, O Blessed Mother, the sword pierced your soul. Only by passing through your soul could it penetrate to the body of your Son. When Jesus your Son had given up His spirit, when the cruel spear which pierced His side could no longer touch His soul, it transfixed yours. His soul was no longer there. Yours was. It could not be torn away. We call you more than martyr because your love, which made you suffer with your Son, brought pain of soul far more exquisite than any pain of body. "Woman, behold thy Son"—how keenly those words must have pierced your loving soul! Mere remembrance of them can wring with sorrow our hard, steely hearts. Do not wonder, my brethren, that Mary is said to be martyred in spirit. Want of affection was far from Mary's heart. O, may it be equally far from those of her servants! Christ died in body. Could she not die with Him in her heart? His death was brought about by a love greater than any man has; hers by a love no other mortal ever had, except she." (From the Sermon of St. Bernard on the Twelve Stars.)

Through you, O Virgin Mother, may we draw the waters of salvation out of the wounds of Christ.

Sixth Sorrow: Mary Receives Jesus's Body into Her Arms

Joseph of Arimathaea requested the body of Jesus, which he took down from the cross. And His Mother received it into her arms. The sorrowing mother took her dead Son and laid Him on her knees.

What a sea of tears and sorrow
Did the soul of Mary toss
To and fro upon its billows.
While she wept her bitter loss,
In her arms her Jesus holding.
Torn so newly from the Cross.
Oh, that mournful Virgin Mother!
See her tears how fast they flow
Down upon His mangled body,
Wounded side, and thorny brow;
While His hands and feet she kisses
Picture of immortal woe.
Oft and oft His arms and bosom
Fondly straining to her own;
Oft her pallid lips imprinting
On each wound of her dear Son;
Till in one last kiss of anguish
All her melting soul is gone.
Gentle Mother, we beseech thee
By thy tears and troubles sore;
By the death of thy dear Offspring,
By the bloody wounds He bore;
Touch our hearts with true sorrow
Which afflicted thee of yore.

O, Mary, help me to stand beside the Cross with you, whose soul the sword of sorrow has pierced.

Seventh Sorrow: Mary Places Jesus's Body in the Tomb

They place Jesus' body on a slab and quickly anoint it. From there they carry it to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. There, once again, Mary arranges the folds of the winding sheet with her own hands. The tomb is closed and the mourners leave. "Depart from me, I will weep bitterly; labor not to comfort me. There is in Him no stately bearing to make us look at Him, nor appearance that would attract us to Him. From the sole of the foot to the head, there is no sound spot in Him." "To what can I liken or compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What example can I show you for your comfort, O Virgin daughter of Sion? For great as the sea is your downfall." Yet Mary's deep sorrow did not overshadow her faith in Jesus or her hope in His promise. His death was her hope of resurrection.

God of mercy, let us run
Where yon fount of sorrow flows;
Pondering sweetly, one by one,
Jesus 's wounds and Mary's woes.
Ah, those tears Our Lady shed,
Enough to drown a world of sin;
Tears that Jesus 's sorrows fed,
Peace and pardon well may win!
His five wounds, a very home,
For our prayers and praises prove;
And Our Lady's woes become
Endless joys in Heaven above.
Jesus, Who for us did die,
All on Thee our love we pour
And in the Holy Trinity
Worship Thee forever more. Amen.


Reflections on Each of the Seven Dolors of Mary
From "The Glories of Mary" by St. Alphonsus Liguouri

On the First Dolor
Of St. Simeon's prophecy

In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and every one must suffer those afflictions that daily befall him. But how much more miserable would life be, if every one knew also the future evils which are to afflict him! Too unhappy would he be, says Seneca, whose fate was such. The Lord exercises this compassion towards us, namely, that he does not make known to us the crosses that await us; that if we are to suffer them, at least we may suffer them only once. But he did not exercise this compassion with Mary, who, because God wished her to be queen of dolors, and in all things like his Son, had to see always before her eyes, and to suffer continually all the sorrows that awaited her; and those were the sufferings of the passion and death of her beloved Jesus. For St. Simeon in the temple, after having received the divine child in his arms, predicted to her thait this child was to be the mark for all the opposition and persecution of men: " Set for a sign which shall be contradicted;" and that therefore the sword of sorrow should pierce her soul: " And thy own soul a sword shall pierce."

The holy Virgin herself said to St. Matilda, that at this announcement of St. Simeon all her joy was changed into sorrow. For, as it was revealed to St. Theresa, the blessed mother, although she knew before this that the life of her Son would be sacrificed for the salvation of the world, yet she then learned more particularly and distinctly the sufferings and cruel death that awaited her poor Son. She knew that he would be contradicted in all things. Contradicted in doctrine; for instead of being believed, he would be esteemed a blasphemer for teaching that he was the Son of God, as the impious Caiaphas declared him to be, saying: " He hath blasphemed, he is guilty of death." Contradicted in his reputation, for he was noble, of royal lineage, and was despised as a peasant: " Is not this the carpenter's son?" "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" He was wisdom itself, and was treated as an ignorant man: "How doth this man know letters, having never learned ?" As a false prophet: " And they blind folded him and smote his face .... saying "Prophesy who is this that struck thee." He was treated as a madman: " He is mad, why hear you him ?" As a wine-bibber, a glutton, and a friend of sinners: "Behold a man that is a glutton, and a drinker of wine; a friend of publicans and sinners." As a sorcerer: "By the prince of devils he casteth out devils." As a heretic and possessed person: "Do we not say well of thee, that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?" In a word, Jesus was considered as so bad and notorious a man, that no trial was necessary to condemn him, as the Jews said to Pilate: "If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to tlee." He was contradicted in his soul, for even his eternal Father, in order to give place to the divine justice, contradicted him by not wishing to hear him when he prayed to him, saying: " Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me" and abandoned him to fear, weariness, and sadness, so that our afflicted Lord said: "My soul is sorrowful even unto death." His interior suffering even caused him to sweat blood. Contradicted and persecuted, in a word, in his body and his life, for he was tortured in all his sacred members: in his hands, in his feet, in his face, in his head, in his whole body, till, drained to the last drop of his blood, he died an ignominious death on the cross.

When David, in the midst of all his pleasures and royal grandeur, heard from Nathan the prophet that his son should die -- "The child that is born to thee shall surely die" -- he could find no peace, but wept, fasted, and slept upon the ground. Mary received with the greatest calmness the announcement that her Son should die, and peacefully continued to submit to it; but what grief she must have continually suffered, seeing this amiable Son always near her, hearing from him words of eternal life, and beholding his holy demeanor. Abraham suffered great affliction during the three days he passed with his beloved Isaac, after he knew that he was to lose him. Oh God! not for three days, but for thirty-three years, Mary had to endure a like sorrow. Like, do I say? A sorrow as much greater as the Son of Mary was more lovely than the son of Abraham. The blessed Virgin her self revealed to St. Bridget, that while she lived on the earth there was not an hour when this grief did not pierce her soul: As often, she continued, as I looked upon my Son, as often as I wrapped him in his swaddling clothes, as often as I saw his hands and his feet, so often was my soul overwhelmed as it were with a fresh sorrow, because I considered how he would be crucified. Rupert the Abbot, contemplating Mary, while she was suckling her Son, imagines her addressing him in these words: " A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, he shall abide between my breast" Ah, my Son, I clasp thee in my arms, because thou art so dear to me; but the dearer thou art to me, the more thou dost become to me a bundle of myrrh and of sorrow, when I think of thy sufferings.

Mary, says St. Bernardine of Sienna, considered that the strength of the saints was to pass through death; the beauty of paradise to be deformed; the Lord of the universe to be bound as a criminal; the Creator of all hings to be livid with stripes; the Judge of all to be condemned; the glory of heaven despised; the King of kings to be crowned with thorns, and treated as a mock king.

Father Engelgrave writes, that it was revealed to the same St. Bridget, that the afflicted mother, knowing all that her Son would have to suffer, when suckling him, thought of the gall and vinegar; when she swathed him, of the cords with which he was to be bound; when she bore him in her arms, she thought of him being nailed to the cross; and when he slept, she thought of his death. As often as she put on him his clothes, she reflected that they would one day be torn from him, that he might be crucified; and when she beheld his sacred hands and feet, and thought of the nails that were to pierce them, as Mary said to St. Bridget: "My eyes filled with tears, and my heart was tortured with grief."

The evangelist says, that as Jesus Christ advanced in years, so also he advanced in wisdom and in grace with God and men. That is, he advanced in wisdom and in grace before men, or in their estimation; and before God, according to St. Thomas, inasmuch as all his works would continually have availed to increase his merit, if from the beginning grace in its complete fulness had not been conferred on him by virtue of the hypostatic union. But if Jesus advanced in the esteem and love of others, how much more did he advance in Mary's love! But, oh God, as love increased in her, the more increased in her the grief of having to lose him by a death so cruel. And the nearer the time of the passion of her Son approached, with so much greater pain did that sword of sorrow, predicted by St. Simeon, pierce the heart of the mother; precisely this the angel revealed to St. Bridget, saying: "That sword of sorrow was every hour drawing nearer to the Virgin as the time for the passion of her Son drew nearer. "If, then, Jesus our King and his most holy mother did not refuse, for love of us, to suffer during their whole life such cruel pains, there is no reason that we should complain if we suffer a little. Jesus crucified once appeared to sister Magdalene Orsini, a Dominican nun, when she had been long suffering a great trial, and encouraged her to remain with him on the cross with that sorrow that was afflicting her. Sister Magdalene answered him complainingly: " Oh Lord, thou didst suffer on the cross only three hours, but it is more than three years that I have been suffering this cross." Then the Redeemer replied : " Ah! ignorant soul, what dost thou say? I, from the first moment I was conceived, suffered in heart what I afterwards suffered on the cross." If, then, we too suffer any affliction and complain, let us imagine that Jesus and his mother Mary are saying to us the same words.


Father Roviglione, of the Company of Jesus, relates, that a certain youth practised the devotion of visiting every day an image of the sorrowful Mary, in which she was represented with seven swords piercing her heart. One night the unhappy youth fell into mortal sin. Going next morning to visit the image, he saw in the heart of the blessed Virgin not only seven, but eight swords. As he stood gazing at this, he heard a voice saying to him, that his sin had added the eighth sword to the heart of Mary. This softened his hard heart; he went immediately to confession, and through the intercession of his advocate, recovered the divine grace.


Oh my blessed mother, not one sword only, but as many swords as I have committed sins have I added to those seven in thy heart. Ah, my Lady, thy sorrows are not due to thee who art innocent, but to me •who am guilty. But since thou hast wished to suffer so much for me, ah, by thy merits obtain for me great sorrow for my sins, and patience under the trials of this life, which will always be light in comparison with my demerits, for I have often merited hell. Amen.

On the Second Dolor
Of the Flight of Jesus into Egypt

As the stag, wounded by an arrow, carries the pain with him wherever he goes, because he carries with him the arrow that has wounded him; thus the divine mother, after the prophecy of St. Simeon, as we saw in our consideration of the first grief, always carried her sorrow with her by the continual remembrance of the passion of her Son. Ailgrin, explaining this passage of the Canticles, " The hairs of thy head as the purple of the king bound in the channel," says: These hairs of Mary were her continual thoughts of the passion of Jesus, which kept always before her eyes the blood which was one day to flow from his wounds. Thy mind, oh Mary, and thy thoughts tinged in the blood of the passion of our Lord, were always moved with sorrow as if they actually saw the blood flowing from his wounds. Thus her Son himself was that arrow in the heart of Mary, who, the more worthy of love he showed himself to her, always wounded her the more with the sorrowful thought that she should lose him by so cruel a death. Let us now pass to the consideration of the second sword of sorrow which wounded Mary, in the flight of her infant Jesus into Egypt from the persecution of Herod.

Herod having heard that the expected Messiah was born, foolishly feared that the new-born King would deprive him of bis kingdom. Hence St. Fulgentius, reproving him for his folly, thus says: " Why, oh Herod, art thou thus disturbed? This King who is born has not come to conquer kings by arms, but to subjugate them, in a wonderful manner, by his death." The impious Herod, therefore, waited to learn from the holy magi where the King was born, that he might take from him his life; but finding him self deceived by the magi, he ordered all the infants that could be found in the neighborhood of Bethlehem to be put to death. But an angel appeared in a dream to St. Joseph, and said to him: "Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt."

According to Gerson, immediately, on that very night, Joseph made this command known to Mary; and taking the infant Jesus, they commenced their journey, as it seems clearly from thy Gospel itself: "Who arose and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt." Oh God, as blessed Albertus Magnus says in the name of Mary, must he, then, who came to save men flee from men? "Debet fugere qui salvator est mundi?" And then the afflicted Mary knew that already the prophecy of Simeon, regarding her Son, was beginning to be verified : "He is set for a sign which shall be contradicted." Seeing that scarcely is he born, when he is persecuted to death. What suffering it must have been to the heart of Maiy, writes St. John Chyrsostom, to hear the tidings of that cruel exile of herself with her Son! Flee from thy friends to strangers, from the holy temple of the only true God, to the temples of demons. What greater tribulation than that a new-born child, clinging to its mother's bosom, should be forced to fly with the mother herself! Every one can imagine how much Mary must have suffered on this journey. It was a long distance to Egypt. Authors generally agree with Barrada that it was four hundred miles; so that at least it was a journey of thirty days. The way, as St.  Bonaventure describes it, was rough, unknown, through woods, and little frequented. The season was winter, and therefore they had to travel in snow, rain, wind, and storms, and through bad and difficult roads. Mary was then fifteen years of age, a delicate virgin, unaccustomed to such journeys. They had no servant to attend them. Joseph and Mary, said St. Peter Chrysologus. had no man-servant nor maid-servant ; they were themselves both masters and servants. Oh God, how piteous a spectacle it was to see that tender Virgin, with that newly born infant in her arms, wandering through this world! St. Bonaventure asks. Where did they obtain food? Where did they rest at night? How were they lodged? What other food could they have, than a piece of hard bread which Joseph brought with him or begged in charity: Where could they have slept (particularly in the two hundred miles of desert through which they travelled, where, as authors relate there were neither houses nor inns) except on the sand, or under some tree in the wood, in the open air, exposed to robbers, or those wild beasts with which Egypt abounded? Ah, if any one had met these three greatest personages of the world, what would he have believed them to be but three poor, loving

They lived in Egypt, according to Brocard and Jansenius, in a district called Maturea, though, according to St. Anselm, they dwelt in Heliopolis, first called Memphis, and now Cairo. And here let us consider the great poverty they must have suffered for the seven years they were there, as St. Antoninus, St. Thomas, and others assert. They were foreigners, unknown, without revenues, without money, without kindred; hardly were they able to support themselves by their humble labors. As they were destitute, says St. Basil, it is man ifest what efforts they must have made to obtain there the necessaries of life. Moreover, Landolph of Saxony has written, and let it be repeated for the consolation of the poor, that so great was the poverty of Mary there, that sometimes she had not so much as a morsel of bread, when her Son, forced by hunger, asked it of her. St. Matthew also relates that when Herod was dead, the angel again appeared, in a dream, to St. Joseph, and directed him to return to Judea. St. Bonaventure, speaking of this return, considers the greater pain of the blessed Virgin, on account of the sufferings which Jesus must have endured in that journey, having arrived at about the age of seven years—an age, says the saint, when he was so large that he could not be carried, and so small that he fould not go Iwithout assistance.

The sight, then, of Jesus and Mary wandering like fugitives through this world, teaches us that we should also live as pilgrims on the earth, detached from the goods which the world offers us, as having soon to leave them and go to eternity. "We have not here a lasting city, but seek one that is to come." To which St. Augustine adds: Thou art a stranger, thou givest a look, and then passest on: " Hospes es, vides et transis." It also teaches us to embrace crosses, for we cannot live in this world without a cross. The blessed Veronica da Binasco, an Augustinian nun, was carried in spirit to accompany Mary and the infant Jesus in this journey to Egypt, and at the end of it the divine mother said to her: " Child, hast thou seen through what difficulties we have reached this place? Now learn that no one receives graces without suffering."

He who wishes to feel least the sufferings of this life, must take Jesus and Mary with him: " Accipe puerum et matrem ejus." For him who lovingly bears in his heart this Son and this mother, all sufferings become light, and even sweet and dear. Let us then love them, let us console Mary by receiving her Son within our hearts, whom, even now, men continue to persecute with their sins.


One day the most holy Mary appeared to the blessed Colletta, a Franciscan nun, and showed her the infant Jesus in a basin, torn in pieces, and then said to her : "Thus sinners continually treat my Son, renewing his death and my sorrows; oh, my daughter, pray for them that they may be converted." Similar to this is that other vision which appeared to the venerable sister Jane, of Jesus and Mary, also a Franciscan nun. As she was one day meditating on the infant Jesus, persecuted by Herod, she heard a great noise, as of armed people, who were pursuing some one; and then appeared before her a most beautiful child, who was fleeing in great distress, and cried to her: " My Jane, help me, hide me; I am Jesus of Nazareth, I am flying from sinners who wish to kill me, and who persecute me as Herod did: do thou save me."


Then, oh Mary, even after thy Son hath died by the hands of men who persecuted him unto death, have not these ungrateful men yet ceased from persecuting him with their sins, and continuing to afflict thee, oh mother of sorrows? And I also, oh God, have been one of these. Ah, my most sweet mother, obtain for me tears to weep for such ingratitude. And then, by the sufferings thou didst experience in thy journey to Egypt, assist me in the journey that I am making to eternity, that at length I may go to unite with thee in loving my persecuted Saviour, in the country of the blessed. Amen.

On the Third Dolor
Of the Loss of Jesus in the Temple

St. James the Apostle has said, that our perfection consists in the virtue of patience. "And patience hath a perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing." The Lord having then given us the Virgin Mary as an example of perfection, it was necessary that she should be laden with sorrows, that in her we might admire and imitate her heroic patience. The dolor that we are this day to consider is one of the greatest which our divine mother suffered during her life, namely, the loss of her Son in the temple. He who is born blind is little sensible of the pain of being deprived of the light of day; but to him who has once had sight and enjoyed the light, it is a great sorrow to find himself deprived of it by blindness. And thus it is with those unhappy souls who, being blinded by the mire of this earth, have but little knowledge of God, and therefore scarcely feel pain at not finding him. On the contrary, the man who, illuminated with celestial light, has been made worthy to find by love the sweet presence of the Highest good, oh God, how he mourns when he finds himself deprived of it! From this we can judge how painful must have been to Mary, who was accustomed to enjoy constantly the sweet presence of Jesus, that third sword which wounded her, when she lost him in Jerusalem, and was separated from him for three days.

In the second chapter of St. Luke we read that the blessed Virgin, being accustomed to visit the temple every year at the paschal season, with Joseph her spouse and Jesus, once went when he was about twelve years old, and Jesus remained in Jerusalem, though she was not aware of it, for she thought he was in company with others. When she reached Nazareth she inquired for her Son, and not finding him there, she returned immediately to Jerusalem to seek him, but did not succeed until after three days. Now let us imagine what distress that afflicted mother must have experienced in those three days in which she was searching everywhere for her Son, with the spouse in the Canticles: " Have you seen him whom my soul loveth?" But she could hear no tidings of him. Oh, with how much greater tenderness must Mary, overcome with fatigue, and yet not having found her beloved Son, have repeated those words of Ruben, concerning his brother Joseph: The boy doth not appear, and whither shall I go? "Puer non comparet, et ego quo ibo?" My Jesus doth not appear, and I know not what to do that I may find him; but where shall I go without my treasure? Weeping continually, she repeated during these three days with David: " My tears have been my bread day and night, whilst it is said to me daily, Where is thy God? "Wherefore Pelbart with reason says, that during those nights the afflicted mother had no rest, but wept and prayed without ceasing to God, that he would enable her to find her Son. And, according to St. Bernard, often during that time did she repeat to her Son him self the words of the spouse: "Show me where thou feedest, where thou liest in the mid-day, lest I begin to wander." My Son, tell me where thou art, that I may no longer wander, seeking thee in vain.

Some writers assert, and not without reason, that this dolor was not only one of the greatest, but that it was the greatest and most painful of all. For in the first place, Mary in her other dolors had Jesus with her; she suffered when St. Simeon uttered the prophecy in the temple; she suffered in the flight to Egypt, but always with Jesus; but in this dolor she suffered at a distance from Jesus, without knowing where he was: "And the light of my eyes itself is not with me." Thus, with tears, she then exclaimed: Ah, the light of my eyes, my dear Jesus, is no more with me; he is far from me, I know not where he is! Crigen says, that through the love which this holy mother bore her Son, she suffered more at this loss of Jesus than any martyr ever suffered at death.

Ah, how long were these three days for Mary! they appeared three ages. Very bitter days, for there was none to comfort her. And who, she exclaimed with Jeremias, who can console me if he who could console me is far from me? and therefore my eyes are not satisfied with weeping: " herefore do I weep, and my eyes run down with water, because the comforter is far from me." And with Tobias she repeated: " What manner of joy shall be to me who sit in darkness, and see not the light of heaven?"

Secondly. -- Mary well understood the cause and end of the other dolors, namely, the redemption of the world, the divine will; but in this she did not know the cause of the absence of her Son. The sorrowful mother was grieved to find Jesus withdrawn from her, for her humility, says Lanspergius, made her consider herself unworthy to remain with him any longer, and attend upon him on earth, and have the care of such a treasure. And perhaps, she may have thought v ithin herself, I have not served him as I ought. Perhaps I have been guilty of some neglect, and therefore he lias left me. They sought him, lest he perchance had left them, as Origen has said.

Certainly there is no greater grief for a soul that loves God than the fear of having displeased him. And therefore Mary never complained in any other sorrow but this, lovingly expostulating with Jesus after she found him: " Son, why hast thou done so to us? Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing." By these words she did not wish to reprove Jesus, as the heretics blasphemously assert, but only to make known to him the grief she had experienced during his absence from her, on account of the love she bore him. It was not a rebuke, says blessed Denis the Carthusian, but a loving complaint: "Non erat increpatio, sed amorosa conquestio." Finally, this sword so cruelly pierced the heart of the Virgin, that the blessed Benvenuta, desiring one day to share the pain of the holy mother in this dolor, and praying her to obtain for her this grace, Mary appeared to her with the infant Jesus in her arms; but while Benvenuta was enjoying the sight of that most beautiful child, in one moment she was deprived of it. So great was her sorrow that she had recourse to Mary, to implore her pity that it should not make her die of grief. The holy Virgin appeared to her again three days after, and said to her: "Now learn, oh my daughter, that thy sorrow is but a small part of that which I suffered when I lost my Son."

This sorrow of Mary ought, in the first place, to serve as a comfort to those souls who are desolate and do not enjoy the sweet presence they once enjoyed of their Lord. They may weep, but let them weep in peace, as Mary wept the absence of her Son. Let them take courage, and not fear that on this account they have lost the divine favor, for God himself said to St. Theresa: "No one is lost without knowing it; and no one is deceived without wishing to be deceived." If the Lord departs from the sight of that soul who loves him, he does not therefore depart from the heart. He often hides himself that she may seek him with greater desire and love. But those who would find Jesus must seek him, not amid the delights and pleasures of the world, but amid crosses and mortifications, as Mary sought him: We sought thee sorrowing, as she said to her Son: "Dolentes quaerebamus te." Learn from Mary to seek Jesus, says Origen: " Disce a Maria quaerere Jesum."

Moreover, in this world we should seek no other good than Jesus. Job was not unhappy when he lost all that he possessed on earth; riches, children, health, and honors, and even descended from a throne to a dunghill ; but because he had God with him, even then he was happy. St. Augustine, speaking of him, says. He had lost all that God had given him, but he had God himself: "Perdiderat ilia quae dederat Deus, sed habebat ipsum Deum."

Unhappy and truly wretched are those souls who have lost God. If Mary wept for the absence of her Son for three days, how ought sinners to weep who have lost divine grace, to whom God says: " You are not my people, and I will not be yours." For sin does this, namely, it separates the soul from God: "Your iniquities have divided between you and your God." Hence, if even sinners possess all the goods of earth and have lost God, everything on earth becomes vanity and affliction to them, as Solomon confessed: "Behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit." But as St. Augustine says: The greatest misfortune of these poor blind souls is, that if they lose an ox, they do not fail to go in search of it ; if they lose a sheep, they use all diligence to find it; if they lose a beast of burden, they cannot rest; but they lose the highest good, which is God, and yet they eat and drink, and take their rest.


We read in the Annual Letters of the Society of Jesus, that in India, a young man who was just leaving his apartment in order to commit sin heard a voice, saying : " Stop, where are you going?" He turned round and saw an image, in relief, of the sorrowful Mary, who drew out the sword which was in her breast, and said to him: " Take this dagger and pierce my heart rather than wound my Son with this sin." At the sound of these words the youth prostrated himself on the ground, and with deep contrition, bursting into tears, he asked and obtained from God and the Virgin pardon of his sin.


Oh blessed Virgin, why art thou afflicted, seeking thy lost Son? Is it because thou dost not know where he is? But dost thou not know that he is in thy heart? Dost thou not see that he is feeding among the lilies? Thou thyself hast said it : "My beloved to me and I to him who feedeth among the lilies." These, thy humble, pure, and holy thoughts and affections, are all lilies, that invite the divine spouse to dwell with thee. Ah, Mary, dost thou sigh after Jesus, thou who lovest none but Jesus? Leave sighing to me and so many other sinners who do not love him, and who have lost him by offending him. My most amiable mother, if through my fault thy Son has not yet returned to my soul, wilt thou obtain for me that I may find him. I know well that he allows himself to be found by all who seek him: The Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him: "Bonus est Dominus . . . animse quaerenti ilium." Make me to seek him as I ought to seek him. Thou art the gate through which all find Jesus; through thee I too hope to find him.

On the Fourth Dolor
Of the Meeting of Mary with Jesus, When He Went to Death

St. Bernardine says, that to form an idea of the grief of Mary in losing her Jesus by death, it is necessary to consider the love that this mother bore to this her Son. All mothers feel the sufferings of their children as their own. Hence the woman of Chanaan, when she prayed the Saviour to deliver her daughter from the devil that tormented her, said to him, that he should have pity on the mother rather than on the daughter: "Have mercy on me, oh Lord, thou son of David, my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil." But what mother ever loved a child so much as Mary loved Jesus? He was her only child, reared amidst so many troubles and pains; a most amiable child, and most loving to his mother; a Son, who was at the same time her Son and her God; who came on earth to kindle in the hearts of all the holy fire of divine love, as he himself declared : "I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?"  Let us consider how ho must have inflamed that pure heart of his holy mother, so free from every earthly affection. In a word, the blessed Virgin herself said to St. Bridget, that through love her heart and the heart of her Son was one: " Unum erat cor meum, et cor filii mei." That blending of handmaid and mother, of Son and God, kindled in the heart of Mary a fire composed of a thousand flames. But afterwards, at the time of the passion, this flame of love was changed into a sea of sorrow.

Hence St. Bernardine says: All the sorrows of the world united would not be equal to the sorrow of the glorious Mary. Yes, because this mother, as St. Lawrence Justinian writes: The more tenderly she loved, was the more deeply wounded. The greater the tenderness with which she loved him, the greater was her grief at the sight of his sufferings, especially when she met her Son, after he had already been condemned, going to death at the place of punishment, bearing the cross. And this is the fourth sword of sorrow which today we have to consider.

The blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget, that at the time when the passion of our Lord was drawing nigh, her eyes were always filled with tears, as she thought of her beloved Son whom she was about to lose on this earth. Therefore, as she also said, a cold sweat covered her body from the fear that seized her at that prospect of approaching suffering. Behold, the appointed day at length arrived, and Jesus came in tears to take leave of his mother before he went to death. St. Bonaventure, contemplating Mary on that night, says: Thou didst spend it without sleep, and while others slept, thou didst remain watching. Morning having arrived, the disciples of Jesus Christ came to this afflicted mother, one, to bring her this tidings, another, that; but all tidings of sorrow, for in her were then verified the words of Jeremias: "Weeping, she hath wept in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; there is none to comfort her of all them that were dear to her."

One came to relate to her the cruel treatment of her Son in the house of Caiphas ; another, the insults received by him from Herod. Finally, for I omit all the rest to come to my point, St. John came, and announced to Mary that the most unjust Pilate had already condemned him to death upon the cross. I say the most unjust, for, as St. Leo remarks, this unjust judge condemned him to death with the same lips with which he had pronounced him innocent. Ah, sorrowful mother, said St. John to her, thy Son has  already been condemned to death, he is already on his way, bearing himself his cross on his way to Calvary, as he afterwards related in his Gospel: "And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary, "Come, if thou dost desire to see him, and bid him a last farewell in some of the streets through which he is to pass. Mary goes with St. John, and she perceives by the blood with which the way was sprinkled, that her Son had already passed there. This she revealed to St. Bridget: "By the footsteps of my Son I traced his course, for along the way by which he had passed, the ground was sprinkled with blood." St. Bonaventure imagines the afflicted mother taking a shorter way, and placing herself at the corner of the street to meet her afflicted Son as he passed by. This most afflicted mother met her most afflicted Son: Moestissima mater moestissimo filio occurrit, said St. Bernard.

While Mary stopped in that place how much she must have heard said against her Son by the Jews, who knew her, and perhaps also words in mockery of her self! Alas! what a commencement of sorrows was then before her eyes, when she saw the nails, the hammers, the cords, the fatal instruments of the death of her Son borne .before him! And what a sword pierced her heart when she heard the trumpet proclaiming along the way the sentence pronounced against her Son! But behold, now, after the instruments, the trumpet, and the ministers of justice had passed, she raises her eyes and sees; she sees, oh God, a young man covered with blood and wounds from head to foot, with a crown of thorns on his head, and the heavy beams on his shoulders; she looks at him and hardly knows him, saying, then, with Isaias : "And we have seen him, and there was no sightliness."

Yes, for the wounds, the bruises, and clotted blood, made him look like a leper: " We have thought him, as it were, a leper" so that he could no longer be recognized. "And his look was, as it were, hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not." But at length love recognizes him, and as soon as she knows him, ah, what was then, as St. Peter of Alcantara says in his meditations, the love and fear of the heart of Mary! On the one hand, she desired to see him; on the other, she could not endure to look upon so pitiable a sight. But at length they look at each other. The Son wipes from his eyes the clotted blood, which prevented him from seeing (as was revealed to St. Bridget), and looks upon the mother; the mother looks upon the Son. Ah, looks of sorrow, which pierced, as with so many arrows, those two holy and loving souls. When Margaret, the daughter of Sir Thomas More, met her father on his way to the scaffold, she could utter only two words, oh, father! oh, father! and fell fainting at his feet. At the sight of her Son going to Calvary, Mary fainted not; no, because it was not fitting that this mother should lose the use of her reason, as Father Suarez remarks, neither did she die, for God reserved her for a greater grief; but if she did not die, she suffered sorrow enough to cause her a thousand deaths.

The mother wished to embrace him, as St. Anselm says, but the officers of justice thrust her aside, loading her with insults, and urge onward our afflicted Lord. Mary follows. Ah, holy Virgin, where art thou going? To Calvary! And canst thou trust thyself to see him who is thy life hanging from a cross? And thy life shall be as it were hanging before thee: " Et erit vita tua quasi pendens ante te." Ah! my mother, stop, says St. Lawrence Justinian, as if the Son himself had then spoken to her; where dost thou hasten? Where art thou going? If thou comest where I go, thou wilt be tortured with my sufferings, and I with thine. But although the sight of her dying Jesus must cost her such cruel anguish, the loving Mary will not leave him. The Son goes before, and the mother follows, that she may be cruciIfied with her Son, as William the Abbot says: The mother took up her cross, and followed him, that she might be crucified with him. We even pity the wild beasts: "Ferarum etiam miseremur" as St. John Chrysostom has said. If we should see a lioness following her whelp as he was led to death, even this wild beast would call forth our compassion. And shall we not feel compassion to see Mary following her immaculate Lamb, as they are leading him to death?

Let us then pity her, and endeavor also ourselves to accompany her Son and herself, bearing with patience the cross which the Lord imposes on us. Why did Jesus Christ, asks St. John Chrysostom, desire to be alone in his other sufferings, but in bearing the cross wished to be helped by the Cyrenean? And he answers: That thou mayest understand that the cross of Christ is not sufficient without thine. The cross alone of Jesus is not enough to save us, if we do not bear with resignation also our own, even unto death.


The Saviour appeared one day to sister Diomira, a nun, in Florence, and said to her : "Think of me, and love me, and I will think of thee, and love thee" and at the same time he presented her with a bunch of flowers and a cross, signifying to her by this, that the consolations of the saints on this earth are always to be accompanied by the cross. The cross unites souls to God.

Blessed Jerome Emilian, when he was a soldier, and leading a very sinful life, was shut up by his enemies in a tower. There, feeling deeply his misfortune, and enlightened by God to amend his life, he had recourse to the most holy Mary, and then with the help of this divine mother, he began to live the life of a saint. By this he merited to see once in heaven the high place which God had prepared for him. He became founder of the order of Sommaschi, died a saint, and has been lately beatified by the holy Church.


My sorrowful mother, by the merit of that grief which thou didst feel at seeing thy beloved Jesus led to death, obtain for me the grace also to bear with patience those crosses which God sends me. Happy me, if I also shall know how to accompany thee with my cross until death. Thou and Jesus, both innocent, have borne a heavy cross; and shall I a sinner, who have merited hell, refuse mine Ah, immaculate Virgin, I hope that thou wilt help me to bear my crosses with patience. Amen.

On the Fifth Dolor
Of the Death of Jesus

And now we have to admire a new sort of martyrom, a mother condemned to see an innocent son, whom she loved with all the affection of her heart, put to death before her eyes, by the most barbarous tortures. There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother: " Stabat autem juxta crucem mater ejus." There is nothing more to be said, says St. John, of the martyrdom of Mary: behold her at the foot of the cross, looking on her dying Son, and then see if there is grief like her grief. Let us stop then also today on Calvary, to consider this fifth sword that pierced the heart of Mary, namely, the death of Jesus.

As soon as our afflicted Redeemer had ascended the hill of Calvary, the executioners stripped him of his garments, and piercing his sacred hands and feet with nails, not sharp, but blunt: "Non acutis, sed obtusis" as St. Bernard says, and to torture him more, they fastened him to the cross. When they had crucified him, they planted the cross, and thus left him to die. The executioners abandon him, but Mary does not abandon him. She then draws nearer to the cross, in order to assist at his death. "I did not leave him," thus the blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget, "and stood nearer to his cross." But what did it avail, oh Lady, says St. Bonaventure, to go to Calvary to witness there the death of this Son? Shame should have prevented thee, for his disgrace was also thine, because thou wast his mother; or, at least, the horror of such a crime as that of seeing a God crucified by his own creatures, should have prevented thee. But the saint himself answers: Thy heart did not consider the horror, but the suffering: " Non considerabat cor tuum horrorem, sed dolorem." Ah, thy heart did not then care for its own sorrow, but for the suffering and death of thy dear Son; and therefore thou thyself didst wish to be near him, at least to compassionate him.

Ah, true mother! says William the Abbot, loving mother! for not even the terror of death could separate thee from thy beloved Son. But, oh God, what a spectacle of sorrow, to see this Son then in agony upon the cross, and under the cross this mother in agony, who was suffering all the pain that her Son was suffering! Behold the words in which Mary revealed to St. Bridget the pitiable state of her dying Son, as she saw him on the cross: "My dear Jesus was on the cross in grief and in agony; his eyes were sunken, half closed, and lifeless; the lips hanging, and the mouth open; the cheeks hollow, and attached to the teeth; the face lengthened, the nose sharp, the countenance sad; the head had fallen upon his breast, the hair black with blood, the stomach collapsed, the arms and legs stiff, and the whole body covered with wounds and blood."

Mary also suffered all these pains of Jesus. Every torture inflicted on the body of Jesus, says St. Jerome, was a wound in the heart of the mother. Any one of us who should then have been on Mount Calvary, would have seen two altars, says St. John Chrysostom, on which two great sacrifices were consummating, one in the body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary. But rather would I see there, with St. Bonaventure, one altar only, namely, the cross alone of the Son, on which, with the victim, this divine Lamb, the mother also was sacrificed. Therefore the saint interrogates her in these words: Oh Lady, where art thou? Near the cross? Nay, on the cross, thou art crucified with thy Son. St. Augustine also says the same thing: The cross and nails of the Son were also the cross and nails of the mother; Christ being crucified, the mother was also crucified. Yes, because, as St. Bernard says, love inflicted on the heart of Mary the same suffering that the nails caused in the body of Jesus. Therefore, at the same time that the Son was sacrificing his body, the mother, as St. Bernardin says, was sacrificing her soul. Mothers fly from the presence of their dying children but if a mother is ever obliged to witness the death of a child, she procures for him all possible relief; she arranges the bed, that his posture may be more easy; she administers refreshments to him; and thus the poor mother relieves her own sorrows. Ah, mother, the most afflicted of all mothers! oh Mary, it was decreed that thou shouldst be present at the death of Jesus, but it was not given to thee to afford him any relief. Mary heard her Son say: I thirst: "Sitio"; but it was not permitted her to give him a little water to quench his great thirst. She could only say to him, as St. Vincent Ferrer remarks: My Son, I have only the water of my tears: "Fili, non habeo nisi aquam lacrymarum." She saw that her Son, suspended by three nails to that bed of sorrow, could find no rest. She wished to clasp him to her heart, that she might give him relief, or at least that he might expire in her arms, but she could not. She saw that poor Son in a sea of sorrow, seeking one who could console him, as he had predicted by the mouth of the prophet: "I have trodden the wine press alone; I looked about and there was none to help; I sought and there was none to give aid."

But who was there among men to console him, if all were his enemies? Even on the cross they cursed and mocked him on every side: "And they that passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads." Some said to him: " If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross." Some exclaimed: "He saved others, himself he cannot save." Others said: "If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross."The blessed Virgin herself said to St. Bridget: "I heard some call my Son a thief; I heard others call him an impostor; others said that no one deserved death more than he; and every word was to me a new sword of sorrow."

But what increased most the sorrows which Mary suffered through compassion for her Son, was to hear him complain on the cross that even the eternal Father had abandoned him: " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?" Words which, as the divine mother herself said to St. Bridget, could never depart from her mind during her whole life. Thus the afflicted mother saw her Jesus suffering on every side; she desired to comfort him, but could not. And what caused her the greatest sorrow was to see that, by her presence and her grief, she increased the sufferings of her Son. The sorrow itself, says St. Bernard, that filled the heart of Mary, increased the bitterness of sorrow in the heart of Jesus. St. Bernard also says, that Jesus on the cross suffered more from compassion for his mother than from his own pains: he thus speaks in the name of the Virgin: I stood and looked upon him, and he looked upon me; and he suffered more for me than for himself. The same saint also, speaking of Mary beside her dying Son, says, that she lived dying without being able to die: Near the cross stood his mother, speechless; living she died, dying she lived; neither could she die, because she was dead, being yet alive. Passino writes that Jesus Christ himself, speaking one day to the blessed Baptista Varana, of Camerino, said to her, that he was so afflicted on the cross at the sight of his mother in such anguish at his feet, that compassion for his mother caused him to die without consolation. So that the blessed Baptista, being enlightened to know this suffering of Jesus, exclaimed: Oh my Lord, tell me no more of this thy sorrow, for I cannot bear it.

Men were astonished, says Simon of Cassia, when they saw this mother then keep silence, witiout uttering a complaint in this great suffering. But if the lips of Mary were silent, her heart was not so; for she did not cease offering to divine justice the life of her Son for our salvation. Therefore we know that by the merits of her dolors she co-operated with Christ in bringing us forth to the life of grace, and therefore we are children of her sorrows: Christ, says Lanspergius, wished her whom he had appointed for our mother to co-operate with him in our redemption; for she herself at the foot of the cross was to bring us forth as her children. And if ever any consolation entered into that sea of bitterness, namely, the heart of Mary, it was this only one; namely, the knowledge that by means of her sorrows, she was bringing us to eternal salvation; as Jesus himself revealed to St. Bridget: "My mother Mary, on account of her compassion and charity, was made mother of all in heaven and on earth." And, indeed, these were the last words with which Jesus took leave of her before his death; this was his last remembrance, leaving us to her for her children in the person of John, when he said to her: Woman, behold thy Son : "Mulier ecce filius tuus."* And from that time Mary began to perform for us this office of a good mother; for, as St. Peter Damian declares, the penitent thief, through the prayers of Mary, was then converted and saved: Therefore the good thief repented, because the blessed Virgin, standing between the cross of her Son and that of the thief, prayed her Son for him; thus rewarding, by this favor, his former service. For as other authors also relate, this thief, in the journey to Egypt with the infant Jesus, showed them kindness; and this same office the blessed Virgin has ever continued, and still continues to perform.


A young man in Perugia once promised the devil that if he would help him to commit a sinful act which he desired to do, he would give him his soul; and he gave him a writing to that effect, signed with his blood. The evil deed was committed, and the devil demanded the performance of the promise. He led the young man to a well, and threatened to take him body and soul to hell if he would not cast himself into fit. The wretched youth, thinking that it would be impossible for him to escape from his enemy, climbed the well-side in order to cast himself into it, but terrified at the thought of death, he said to the devil that he had not the courage to throw himself in, and that, if he wished to see him dead, he himself should thrust him in. The young man wore about his neck the scapular of the sorrowing Mary; and the devil said to him: "Take off that scapular, and I will thrust you in." But the youth, seeing the protection which the divine mother still gave him through that scapular, refused to take it off, and after a great deal of altercation, the devil departed in confusion. The sinner repented, and grateful to his sorrowful mother, went to thank her, and presented a picture of this case, as an offering, at her altar in the new church of Santa Maria, in Perugia.


Ah, mother, the most afflicted of all mothers, thy Son, then, is dead; thy Son so amiable, and who loved thee so much! Weep, for thou hast reason to weep. Who can ever console thee? Nothing can console thee but the thought that Jesus, by his death, hath conquered hell, hath opened paradise- which was closed to men, and hath gained so many souls. From that throne of the cross he was to reign over so many hearts, which, conquered by his love, would serve him with love. Do not disdain, oh my mother, to keep me near to weep with thee, for I have more reason than thou to weep for the offences that I have committed against thy Son. Ah, mother of mercy, I hope for pardon and my eternal salvation, first through the death of my Redeemer, and then through the merits of thy dolors. Amen.

On the Sixth Dolor
Of the Piercing of the Side of Jesus, and His Descent from the Cross

"Oh, all ye that pass by the way attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow." Devout souls, listen to what the sorrowful Mary says to you today: My beloved children, I do not wish you to console me; no, for my heart can never again be consoled on this earth after the death of my dear Jesus. If you wish to please me, this I ask of you, turn to me and see if there has ever been in the world a grief like mine, when I saw him who was all my love torn from me so cruelly. But, oh Lady, since thou dost not wish to be consoled, and hast such a thirst for suffering, I must say to thee that thy sorrows have not ended with the death of thy Son. Toay thou wilt be pierced by another sword of sorrow, when thou shalt see a cruel lance piercing the side of this thy Son, already dead, and shalt receive him in thy arms after he is taken from the cross. And now we are to consider today the sixth dolor which afflicted this sorrowful mother. Attend and weep. Hitherto the dolors of Mary tortured her one by one, but today they are all united to assail her.

To make known to a mother that her child is dead, is sufficient to kindle her whole soul with love for the lost one. Some persons, in order to lighten their grief, will remind mothers whose cnildren have died, of the displeasure they have once caused them. But if I, oh my queen, should wish to lighten thy sorrow for the death of Jesus in this way, what displeasure has he ever caused thee, that I could recall to thy mind? Ah, no; he always loved thee, obeyed thee, and respected thee. Now thou hast lost him, and who can describe thy sorrow? Do thou who hast felt it explain it. A devout author says, that when our Redeemer was dead, the heart of the great mother was first engaged in accompanying the most holy soul of the Son, and presenting it to the eternal Father.

I present thee, oh my God, Mary must then have said, the immaculate soul of thy and my Son, which has been obedient to thee even unto death: receive it, then, in thy arms. Thy justice is now satisfied, thy will accomplished; behold, the great sacrifice to thy eternal glory is consummated. And then turning to ihe lifeless members of her Jesus: Oh wounds, she said, oh loving wounds, I adore you, I rejoice with von, since through you salvation has been given to the 'world. You shall remain open in trie body of my Son, to be the refuge of those who will have recourse to you. Oh how many, through you, shall receive the pardon of their sins, and then through you shall be inflamed to love the Sovereign Good! That the joy of the following Paschal Sabbath should not be disturbed, the Jews wished the body of Jesus to be taken down from the cross; but because they could not take down a criminal until he was dead, they came with iron mallets to break his legs, as they had already done to the two thieves crucified with him. And Mary, while she remains weeping at the death of her Son, sees those armed men coming towards her Jesus. At this sight she first trembled with fear, then she said: Ah, my Son is already dead, cease to maltreat him, and cease to torture me a poor mother longer. She implored them not to break his legs: "Oiavit eos, ne frangerent crura," as St. Bonaventure writes. But while she is thus speaking, oh, God! she sees a soldier with violence brandishing a spear, and piercing the side of Jesus: "One of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water." The cross shook at the stroke of the spear, and, as was revealed to St. Bridget, the heart of Jesus was divided: "Ita ut arnbae partes essent divisae." There came out blood and water, for only a few drops of blood remained, and those also the Saviour wished to shed, in order to show that he had no more hlood to give us. The injury of that stroke was offered to Jesus, but the pain was inflicted on Mary: Christ, says the devout Lanspergius, shared with his mother the infliction of that wound, for he received the insult and his mother the pain. The holy Fathers explain this to be the very sword predicted to the Virgin by St. Simeon; a sword, not of iron, but of grief, which pierced through her blessed soul in the heart of Jesus, where it always dwelt. Thus, among others, St. Bernard says: The spear which opened his side passed through the soul of the Virgin, which could not be torn from the heart of Jesus. And the divine mother herself revealed the same to St. Bridget, saying: "When the spear was drawn out, the point appeared red with blood; then I felt as if my heart were pierced when I saw the heart of my most dear Son pierced. " The angel told St. Bridget, that such were the sufferings of Mary, that she was saved from death only by the miraculous power of God. In her other dolors she at least had her Son to compassionate her; and now she had not even hirti to take pity on her.

The afflicted mother, still fearing that other injuries might be inflicted on her Son, entreats Joseph of Arimathea to obtain from Pilate the body of her Jesus, that at least afier his death she may be able to guard it and protect it from injuries. Joseph went to Pilate, and made known to him the sorrow and the wish of this afflicted mother; and St. Anselm thinks thai compassion for the mother softened the heart of Pilate, and moved him to grant her the body of the Saviour. And now Jesus is taken from the cross.

Oh most holy Virgin, after thou with so great love hadst given thy Son to the world for our salvation, behold the world returns him to thee again! But oh, my God, how dost thou return him to me? said Mary to the world. My Son was white and ruddy: "Dilectus meus candidus et rubicundus"; but thou hast returned him to me blackened with bruises, and red, not with a ruddy color, but with the wounds thou hast inflicted upon him; he was beautiful, now there is no more beauty in him; he is all deformity. All were enamored with his aspect, now he excites honor in all who look upon him. Oh, how many swords, says St. Bonaventure, pierced the soul of this mother, when she received the body of her Son after it was taken from the cross: " O quot gladii aniraam matris pertransierunt!" Let us consider what anguish it would cause any mother to receive the lifeless body of a son ! It was revealed to St. Bridget, that to take down the body of Jesus, three ladders were placed against the cross. Those holy disciples first drew out the nails from his hands and feet, and according to Metaphrastes, gave them in charge to Mary. Then one supported the upper part of the body of Jesus, the other the lower, and thus took it down from the cross. Bernardine de Bustis describes the afflicted mother as raising herself, and extending her arms to meet her dear Son; she embraces him, and then sits down at the foot of the cross. She sees his mouth open, his eye shut, she examines the lacerated flesh, and those exposed bones; she takes off the crown, and sees the cruel injury made by those thorns, in that sacred head; she looks upon those pierced hands and feet, and says: Ah, my Son, to what has the love thou didst bear to men reduced thee! But what evil hast thou done to them, that they have treated ihee so cruelly? Thou wast my father, Bernardine de Bustis imagines her to say, my brother, my spouse, my delight, my glory, my all. Oh, my Son, behold how I am afflicted, look upon me and console me; but thou dost look upon me no more. Speak, speak to me but one word, and console me; but thou dost speak no more, for thou art dead. Then turning to those barbarous instruments, she said: Oh cruel thorns, oh nails, oh merciless spear, how could you thus torture your Creator? But what thorns, what nails? Alas! sinners, she exclaimed, it is you who have thus cruelly treated my Son. Thus Mary spoke and complained of us. But if now she were capable of suffering, what would she say! What grief would she feel to see that men after the death of her Son, continue to torment and crucify him by their sins? Let us no longer give pain to this sorrowful mother; and if we also have hitherto grieved her by our sins, let us now do what she directs. She says to us: Return, ye transgressors, to the heart: "Redite, praevarioatores, ad cor." Sinners, return to the wounded heart of my Jesus; return as penitents, for he will receive you. Flee from him to him, she continues to say with Guerric the Abbot; from the Judge to the Redeemer, from the tribunal to the cross.

The Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget that she closed the eyes of her Son when he was taken down from the cross, but she could not close his arms: "Ejus brachia flectere non potuL" Jesus Christ giving us to understand by this, that he desired to remain with open arms to receive all penitent sinners who return to him. Oh world, continues Mary, behold, then, thy time is the time of lovers: "Et ecce, tempus tuum, tempus amantium." Now that my Son, oh world, has died to save thee, this is no longer for thee a time of fear, but of love: a time to love him who has desired to suffer so much in order to show thee the love he bore thee. Therefore, says St. Bernard, is the heart of Jesus wounded that, through the visible wound, the invisible wound of love may be seen. If, then, concludes Mary, in the words of the Abbot of Celles, my Son has wished his side to be opened that he might give thee his heart, it is right, oh man, that thou shouldst give him thy heart. And if you wish, oh children of Mary, to find a place in the heart of Jesus without fear of being cast out, go, says Ubertino of Casale, go with Mary, for she will obtain grace for you; and in the following example we have a beautiful proof of this.


The Disciple relates§ that there was once a poor sinner who, among other crimes, had killed his father and a brother, and therefore became a fugitive. Happening to hear one day during Lent, a sermon upon the divine mercy, he went to the preacher himself to make his confession. The confessor having heard his crimes, sent him to an altar of the sorrowful mother to pray that she might obtain for him compunction and pardon of his sins. The sinner obeyed, and began to pray, when behold, suddenly overpowered by contrition, he falls down dead. On the following day when the priest recommended to the people to pray for the deceased, a white dove appeared in the church and let fall a card at the feet of the priest. He took it up, and found these words written on it: "The soul of the dead, when it left the body, immediately went to paradise; and do you continue to preach the infinite mercy of God."


Oh afflicted Virgin! oh soul, great in virtues and great also in sorrows ! for both arise from that great fire of love thou hast for God; thou whose heart can love nothing but God; ah mother, have pity on me, for I have not loved God, and I have so much offended him. Thy sorrows give me great confidence to hope for pardon. But this is not enough; I wish to love my Lord, and who can better obtain this for me than thou -- thou who art the mother of fair love? Ah Mary, thou dost console all, comfort me also. Amen.

On the Seventh Dolor
Of the Burial of the Body of Jesus

When a mother is by the side of a suffering and dying child, she no doubt then feels and suffers all his pains; but when the afflicted child is really dead and about to be buried, and the sorrowful mother takes her last leave of him, oh God! the thought that she is to see him no more is a sorrow that exceeds all other sorrows. Behold, the last sword of sorrow which we are to consider, when Mary, after being present at the death of her Son upon the cross, after having embraced his lifeless body, was finally to leave him in the sepulchre, never more to enjoy his beloved presence.

But that we may better understand this last dolor, let us return to Calvary, again to look upon the afflicted mother, who still holds, clasped in her arms, the lifeless body of her Son. Oh my Son, she seems then to continue to say in the words of Job, my Son, thou art changed to be cruel towards me: "Mutatus es mihi in crudelem." Yes, for all thy beauty, grace, virtue, and loveliness, all the signs of special love thou hast shown me, the peculiar favors thou hast bestowed on me, are all changed into so many darts of sorrow, which the more they have inflamed my love for thee, so much the more cause me ciiuelly to feel the pain of having lost thee. Ah, my beloved Son, in losing thee I have lost all. Thus St. Bernard speaks in her name: Oh truly begotten of God, thou wast to me a father, a son, a spouse; thou wast my life! Now I am deprived of my father, my spouse, and my Son, for with my Son whom I have lost, I lose all things. Thus Mary, clinging to her Son, was dissolved in grief; but those holy disciples, fearing lest this poor mother would expire there through agony, went to take the body of her Son from her arms, to bear it away for burial. Therefore, with reverential force they took him from her arms, and having embalmed him, wrapped him in a linen cloth already prepared, upon which our Lord wished to leave to the world his image impressed, is may be seen at the present day in Turin. And now they bear him to the sepulchre. The sorrowful funeral train sets forth; the disciples place him on their shoulders; hosts of angels from heaven accompany him ; those holy women follow him; and the afflicted mother follows in their company her Son to the grave.

When they had reached the appointed place, how gladly would Mary have buried herself there alive with her Son! " Oh how willingly," said the Virgin to St. Bridget, "would I have remained there alive with my Son, if it had been his will!" But since this was not the divine will, the authors relate that she herself accompanied the sacred body of Jesus into the sepulchre, where, as Baronius narrates, they deposited the nails and the crown of thorns. In raising the stone to close the sepulchre, the disciples of the Saviour had to turn to the Virgin, and say to her: Now, oh Lady, we must close the sepulchre; have patience, look upon thy Son and take leave of him for the last time. Then, oh my beloved Son, must the afflicted mother have said, then shall I see thee no more? Receive, then, this last time that I look upon thee, receive the last farewell from me thy dear mother, and receive my heart which I leave buried with thee. The Virgin, says St. Fulgentius, earnestly desired that her soul should be buried with the body of Christ. And Mary herself made this revelation to St. Bridget: "I can truly say, that at the burial of my Son, one sepulchre contained as it were two hearts."

Finally, they take the stone and close up in the holy sepulchre the body of Jesus, that great treasure, greater than any in heaven and on earth. And here let us remark, that Mary left her heart buried with Jesus, because Jesus was all her treasure : "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." And where shall we keep our hearts buried? With creatures? In the mire? And why not with Jesus, who, although he has ascended to heaven, has wished to -remain not dead but alive, in the most holy sacrament of the altar, precisely in order that he may have with him and possess our hearts? But let us return to Mary. Before quitting the sepulchre, according to St. Bonaventure, she blessed that sacred stone, saying: Oh happy stone that doth now inclose that body which was contained nine months in my womb, I bless thee, and envy thee; I leave thee to guard my Son for me, who is my only good, my only love.

And then turning to the eternal Father, she said: Oh "Father, to thee I recommend him, who is thy Son and mine; and thus bidding a last farewell to her Son, and to the sepulchre, she returned to her own house. This poor mother went away so afflicted and sad, according to St. Bernard, that she moved many to tears even against their will: " Multos etiam invites ad lacrymas provocabat" so that wherever she passed, all wept who met her: " Omnes plorabant qui obviabant ei," and could not restrain their tears. And he adds, that those holy disciples, and the women who accompanied her, mourned for her even more than for their Lord.

St. Bonaventure says, that her two sisters covered her with a mourning cloak: The sisters of our Lady wrapped her in a veil as a widow, covering as it were her whole countenance.f And he also says, that pass ing, on her return, before the cross, still wet with the blood of her Jesus, she was the first to adore it : Oh holy cross, she exclaimed, I kiss thee and adore thee; for thou art no longer an infamous wood, but a throne of love, and an altar of mercy, consecrated by the blood of the divine Lamb, who has been sacrificed upon thee, for the salvation of the world. She then leaves the cross and returns to her house; there the afflicted mother casts her eyes around, and no longer sees her Jesus; but instead of the presence of her dear Son, all the memorials of his holy life and cruel death are before her. There she is reminded of the embraces she gave her Son in the stable of Bethlehem, of the conversations held with him for so many years in the shop of Nazareth: she is reminded of their mutual affection, of his loving looks, of the words of eternal life that came forth from that divine mouth. And then comes before her the fatal scene of that very day; she sees those nails, those thorns, that lacerated flesh of her Son, those deep wounds, those uncovered bones, that open mouth, those closed eyes. Alas! what a night of sorrow was that night for Mary! The sorrowful mother turned to St. John, and said mournfully: Ah, John, where is thy Master? Then she asked of Magdalen: Daughter, tell me where is thy beloved? Oh God! who has taken him from us? Mary weeps, and all those who are with her weep. And thou, oh my soul, dost thou not weep! Ah, turn to Mary, and say to her with St. Bonaventure: Let me, oh my Lady, let me weep; thou art innocent, I am guilty. At least entreat her to permit thee to weep with her: "Fac ut tecum lugeam."  She weeps for love, and thou dost weep through sorrow for thy sins. And thus weeping, thou mayest have the happy lot of him of whom we read in the following example.


Father Engelgrave relates, that a certain religious was so tormented by scruples, that sometimes he was almost driven to despair, but having great devotion to Mary, the mother of sorrows, he had recourse to her in thfc agony of his spirit, and was much comforted by contemplating her dolors. Death came, and the devil tormented him more than ever with scruples, and tempted him to despair. When, behold our merciful mother, seeing her poor son so afflicted, appeared to him, and said to him: " And why, oh my son, art thou so overcome with sorrow, ihou who hast so often consoled me by thy compassion for my sorrows? Be comforted," she said to him; "Jesus sends me to thee to console thee; be comforted, rejoice, and come with me to paradise." And at these words the devout religious tranquilly expired, full of consolation and confidence.


My afflicted mother, I will not leave thee alone to weep; no, I wish to keep thee company with my tears. This grace I ask of thee today: obtain for me a continual remembrance of the passion of Jesus, and of thine also, and a tender devotion to them, that all the remaining days of my life may be spent in creeping for thy sorrows, oh my mother, and for those of my Redeemer. I hope that these dolors will give me the confidence and strength not to despair at the hour of my death, at the sight of the offences I have committed against my Lord. By these must I obtain pardon, perseverance, paradise, where I hope to rejoice with thee, and sing the infinite mercy of my God through all eternity: thus I hope, thus may it be. Amen, amen.

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