Scala Santa: on Votive of Our Lady of Sorrows

Secret from the Mass of Our Lady of Sorrows, the prayer whispered by the Priest before the Preface of the Mass: 

O Lord Jesus Christ, we offer You prayers and sacrificial gifts, humbly beseeching You that, as we prayerfully recall the piercing of the most sweet soul of Your blessed Mother Mary, so through the merits of Your death and the manifold intercession of her and her holy friends at the foot of the Cross, we may have our reward with the blessed. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. R. Amen

Soul of Christ, sanctify me…
Passion of Christ, strengthen me…
Within Thy Wounds, hide me…

Meditate frequently on the sorrows of the Mother of God sorrows inseparable from those of her beloved Son. If you go to the crucifix, you will there find the Mother, and, on the other hand, wherever the Mother is, there, also, is the Son.

Saint Paul of the Cross
The Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows in the Passionist choir

It was a great grace and honor to bring all of your intentions to the Scala Santa today. I was even accompanied by a priest friend. There was a sense of – “Everything is going to be okay…”

I say that not as a testament of resignation, or disinterestedness, but with faith and hope. We can analyze “’til the cows come home” (something we say in Nebraska) the sorrows and crises in the Church, in the world. And, in a sense, we should. We should learn from our faults, in humility. But, we should also move forward! Our eternal beatitude, our final good, is God Himself! What are we doing to obtain this? [Might I add, this is all gift…] But how are we cooperating? How are we loving? At our judgment, it won’t be sufficient to say, but those people in ’68 brought revolution, and those people tried to change morality, and I, well, I did this. And I did that. … We will be asked: “How did you love Me?”…

Friday after Passion Sunday

Station Church: Santo Stefano Rotondo 

The trials before the high priest were over. Christ had been found guilty of blasphemy because he said He was the Son of God. This, under Jewish law was punishable by death, but since this sentence could not be carried out without the consent of the Romans, Christ would have to appear before Pontius Pilate who was the Roman governor or procurator at that time. When word of Christ’s condemnation reached the unfortunate Judas, Scripture says: “He … repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it thyself.’ And he flung the pieces of silver into the temple, and withdrew; and went away and hanged himself with a halter.” (Mt. 27: 3-5)

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The story of Judas presents many reflections for each of us and not the least ought to be that there is always an awful difference when we look at sin before we do it and after we commit it. Before we commit sin, the thing to be gained seems so attractive and the transgression that gains it so trifling and insignificant. But, oh, after the sin is committed, the tables are turned and the thing gained seems so contemptible and the transgression so great. Thirty pieces of silver – pitch them into the temple and get rid of them. The thing that we win is cursed in our grasp. Take, for instance, something we know to be in the violation of the commandments of God, tempted to it by a momentary indulgence of some mere animal impulse. How quickly it dies in its satisfaction. It lasts but such a short time and then we are left alone with the thought of the deed we have done. Most of our earthly aims are like that and certainly all of our transgressions follow that formula. As the silver Judas took to betray his God burned the palms of his hands until he cast them from him like a viper that stung his hands, so does the devil ever cheat the sinner of the substance for a shadow, and then robs him of that, or changes it into a frightful specter from which he would escape if he could.

Learn, too, that we may possess great privileges, make great profession of faith, fill high office, and still have no real piety. Again learn that there is a tremendous power in a guilty conscience to inflict punishment. Finally, learn that remorse alone is fruitless, but, if it leads to repentance and confession of sin born of a sorrow for having offended God, we can hope to follow Peter’s example rather than that of Judas.

Would to God Judas had sought out Mary, the Mother of Mercy as John had done. How differently this tragic story might have ended! Her counsels, her prayers, and intercession would doubtlessly have won him a strengthening of hope. This very day, say a prayer to Our Lady of Hope asking her to fill your soul with the virtue of hope so essential to keep us from ever being swallowed up in the awful see of despair.*

Madonna-del-Cenacolo

See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.

*From Reflections on the Passion by Father Doyle

Thursday after Passion Sunday

Happy Feast of Saint Gemma! Today the Scala Santa in Rome will be uncovered for pilgrims to ascend directly upon the steps of marble which Our Lord was condemned to death on. I am going tomorrow morning and invite you to send your intentions for me to take with me: find out more here.

The soldiers, tired from making sport of the chained Christ, took some rest, but the bruised, besmirched, disheveled Savior stood in the chill of the early dawn. As the sun was rising, the chief priests, the Scribes, and the whole Sanhedrin held a secret meeting. Strange, isn’t it, how willing and easy men rise to do evil, while the doing of good seems so irksome? The sacred writers do not relate what took place at that meeting except to say that they “took counsel together against Jesus in order to put Him to death.” (Mt. 27:1)

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Christ in Prison – Holy Blood Chapel, Bruges, West-Vlaanderen

The secret meeting was soon concluded and a public session was instigated. Try to imagine the scene. See Christ in His deplorable state being dragged into the large meeting room. See Him meet every glance with a searching look. He was God, and, as God, knew what had transpired at the secret session and He could read too, the hearts of His enemies. Why would they bother to go through the formalities of a second investigation, since, certainly, they were not searching for the truth? They had already taken “counsel together” against Him, “in order to put Him to death.”

It was because Christ knew their thoughts that He said in reply to the question: “If thou art the Christ, tell us?” “If I tell you, you will not believe me; and if I question you, you will not answer me or let me go. But henceforth, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” And they all said: “Art thou, then, the Son of God?” He answered, “You yourselves say that I am”; and they said: “What further need have we of witness? For we have heard it ourselves from his own mouth.” (Lk. 22:66-71) “And they bound him and led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the procurator.” (Mt. 27: 2)

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When Caiphas put that loaded question directly to Christ: “Tell us, art thou the Christ?” Our Lord replied in kind.

Remembering what abuse He had suffered when that question had been asked for the first meeting of the Sanhedrin a few hours earlier, our Lord said: “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I question you, you will not answer me, or let me go.” Here the Master was clearly referring to the prophecies of the Old Testament regarding the Messias, which they, as scholars and teachers, were supposed to know well, and which, if they would only open their eyes, could see clearly were fulfilled and verified in Him. The high priest and the Sanhedrin had but one single thought and that was not the fulfillment of the prophecies but the destruction of Christ. The merciful Christ in an endeavor to impress His enemies with the salutatory fear of the consequences of their unjust action, added as He did at His first trial – “you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the power of God,” alluding clearly to the final judgment of all men, where true justice would prevail.

How often have we not all heard the Ten Commandments, listened to sermons, read books, studied Christ’s counsels and with our hearts set on sinning, closed our mind and conscience to the voice of God pleading with us to keep His law. How often may some of us prayed half in earnest to know our vocation, to which prayer Christ could say in answer: “If I shall tell you, you will not believe me, and if I question you, you will not answer me?”

Will you not go to Christ in His tabernacle today, and appease His wounded heart for all the indignities heaped upon Him before Caiphas and the Sanhedrin? Tell Him how ready you are to do His will in all things.

See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.

*From Reflections on the Passion by Father Doyle

Wednesday after Passion Sunday

The charge of blasphemy was hurled against Christ by Caiphas, and, after rending his garments – a ritualistic sign of finality – the high priest left the gathering of the Sanhedrin and the group dispersed leaving Christ to the sport of the soldiers. St. Luke puts it this way: “And the men who had him in custody began to mock him and beat him. And they blindfolded him and kept striking his face, and asking him, saying Prophesy, who is that struck thee?” And many other things they kept saying against him, reviling Him.” (Lk. 22: 63-65) St. Matthew adds that they “spat in his face and buffeted him.” (Mt. 26: 67)

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Torturing of Christ – Blessed Fra Angelico – San Marco, Florence

There is hardly another scene in the whole terrible story of the Passion that compares with the one in which mere mortals taunted, mimicked, maltreated, and grossly insulted the veritable Son of God. No artist has ever tried to portray this vicious scene. We have paintings by famous artists of the flagellation, the crowning of thorns, and the crucifixion but none has dared to depict the scene wherein Christ was so basely treated in the home of the high priest Caiphas in the early hours of the morning following His arrest. Not one artist has dared portray men spitting into the adorable face of God. It shocks even one’s imagination to conjure up such a picture. [Father Doyle must not have been aware of the works of Bl. Fra Angelico at St. Mark’s in Florence or he could have seen them as not able to convey how terrible the torturing of Christ was].

The worst criminal would have been given time to rest before his arraignment before the Roman authorities on the morrow. He would have been given bread and water, but not Christ. Small comforts were denied Him. He was bound to a small pillar by iron chains and bound in such a position as not to be able to stand erect or to fall to the hard floor. In His darkened hour in the garden of Olives an angel came to comfort Him, but here, He saw naught but the cruel soldiers mocking and reviling Him. Even His enemies were shut off from Him by the dirty cloth with which He was blindfolded. “Thou dost claim to be a Prophet,” they shouted. “Well, tell us who is striking Thee.” You say You are a king – well, You will be crowned a king tomorrow. All the time they reviled and mocked Him, the soldiers kept striking, kicking, and spitting into His face.

Who is it that endures such torments? It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, at whose birth the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest,” the same one of whom God the Father said: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). What has happened that He is so abandoned and so insulted? Let us say here and now that no one compelled Christ to undergo this torment. He offered Himself of His own free will to pay the ransom for your sins and mine. Ask yourself if there is or has ever been anyone who has loved you enough to suffer thus for you? To whom then does your love belong? Christ bore the heavy chains to free us from the galling chains of our passions and sins. He bore a prison sentence that we might be freed from the eternal prison of hell. He endured the spitting in his face to repair for the awful insults men have offered, and do and will offer His eternal Father.

Go to your Christ in His new prison – the tabernacle – and beg pardon for the insults you have heaped on Him by your sins. If you condemn in your heart the foolish men who insulted our Lord during the Passion, think how much worse your insults are since the soldiers were pagans but you are a child of God and a follower of Christ.

Tuesday after Passion Sunday

The fact that Christ looked at Peter as the cock crowed for the third time is recorded only in St. Luke’s Gospel, but Luke, Matthew, and Mark all record that “Peter went out and wept bitterly.” That look of the Master cut Peter to the quick. As Moses’ rod once struck the rock and water flowed, so the gentle glance of Christ caused Peter’s heart to overflow. That heart was singularly touched, and the fear-frozen memories thawed into penitential tears.

St. Peter before the Virgin Guercino
Saint Peter weeping before the Virgin – Guercino

Peter’s conversion followed a fine pattern. First, you will notice that Peter went out – he left the place and persons who occasioned his shameful denial of our Lord. There can never be any true and lasting conversion until, and unless, we are determined to avoid the occasions of sin – that is, any person, place, or thing that may cause us to fall. We will notice, too, that when Peter took himself away from the evil company he was in, he was able to look at Christ and Christ at him. Whoever wants to cleave to God must sever himself from God’s enemies. Avoid, therefore, evil companions.

Consider next that Peter’s repentance was immediate. He did not put off his conversion and repentance. Many of us desire to avoid sin and be really converted but, like St. Augustine, say in folly, “but not yet.” We seem to put more than ordinary trust in becoming holy when our vices have forsaken us. We dwell too often on the easy conversion of the Good Thief, but as St. Augustine warns: “Christ pardoned one thief on the cross to show that such things are possible, but only one to show it was rare.”

Let us ask ourselves why Peter wept. First, in his quiet moments he realized that he had denied his Lord. Have we not all at one time or another denied our Lord? If you have deliberately missed Mass; given scandal or bad example; resisted God’s will or that of His Church – then take your place with Peter.

The second thing that brought Peter to penitential tears was the thought of the excellence of the Lord whom he had denied. Have you thought seriously of how much Christ has done for you, the graces He has merited for and showered upon you – the home, the health, the advantages He has provided for you?

Third, Peter remembered the position in which the Lord had placed him – converting, befriending, and calling him to his apostolate. Has Christ not placed us all in positions of honor and trust as Christians? Do we not call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ? Yet not only have we not always followed Christ, but we may well have led souls away from Christ by our bad examples and sins.

Fourth, Peter recollected that he had been forewarned. Have we not sinned against the light and with full knowledge and full consent in grave matters? Oh, have we not all frequently resisted the Holy Ghost, our conscience, and the warnings of parents, teachers, and the Church? Think about your wanderings, backslidings and your small progress on the road to perfection!

Peter fell dreadfully, but by repentance rises sweetly. A look of love melts him into tears. Clement notes that Peter was so repentant that all his life after, when he heard a rooster crow, he would fall upon his knees, and weeping, would beg pardon for his sins. Beg of Peter to teach you the necessity and the way of true repentance.

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St. Peter weeping before the Virigin – Guercino

See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.

*From Reflections on the Passion by Father Doyle

Monday after Passion Sunday

It is noteworthy that Holy Scripture records first, that Peter emphasized his third denial with curses and oaths; and second that the cock crowed for the third time, at which instant it suddenly dawned on Peter that this is the very thing Christ had foretold; and third, that “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter and he remembered the word of the Lord, how He said: ‘Before the cock crows, thou wilt deny me thrice,’ and Peter went out and wept bitterly.” (Lk. 22: 61-62)

Basilica of Sant’ Apollinarius Nuovo, Ravenna – After Peter’s third denial of Jesus

There is a powerful lesson to be drawn from the fact that Peter endeavored to strengthen his third denial by cursing and swearing. Peter had been and was a fisherman. Before being converted and called to the apostolate, he had been a man of strong language. The three years with the gentle Christ had weaned him away from that habit. He was certain, no doubt, that he had mastered control of his tongue and language. Certainly the companionship with Christ had done much, but it had not done all. The “old man” was still alive and the “new man” was weak, and so the battle ensued and the old habits were quick to return. From this, we may learn that the fact that we have not committed sins of habit for a long time does not mean that they are completely eradicated. We must ever be on the watch and pray that we may not fall into them in times of temptation or stress.

Next, note that it was not until the cock crowed thrice that Peter remembered the words of our Lord. It is hard to understand why Peter did not realize what was happening after he heard the crow of the rooster after the first denial. And why did Peter not remember Christ’s prediction after the second denial? No, it took three denials and a heartbreaking glance from the gentle Savior to touch Peter’s heart, and to recall to mind the words of the Lord concerning Peter’s vain boasting about fidelity.

Learn from this that sin deadens the heart to every voice and blinds the eye to sin. From your own experience perhaps you can recall occasions when you yourself were so attached to sin that the warnings of your parents, the stirring sermons of retreats and parish missions left you cold and unmoved.

It may well have been that the gentle Savior looked tenderly at you too as He did at Peter. How wonderful is our God, who at a time when He Himself was about to be sentenced to the cruel death of the cross, thought of His poor weak Apostle, and forgot Himself and His own condition to cast a tender, merciful, understanding glance at His follower. “He spoke with His eye,” says Erasmus. The power that went with that look struck Peter’s heart. Without the calm sovereignty of that look, without its accompanying pitying kindness, Peter might well have followed the footsteps of Judas.

Walk the Way of the Cross today and beg of the gentle Christ to let His sacred healing glance fall upon you as it fell upon Simon the Cyrenian, St. Veronica, and the women who wept as He passed. Catch His eye as He falls under the cross and beg of Him to preserve you from despair.*

See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.

*Reflections on the Passion by Father Doyle.

Passion Sunday

Source: @schrenk on Twitter. ca. 1920s Passionist Parish mission

This week the Scala Santa in Rome (the steps from the praetorium of Pilate, upon which Jesus was condemned to death) are being uncovered. They have been covered with wood as to protect them. They will be uncovered for 60 days.

Friday morning I will make a pilgrimage there. I will take your intentions with me. I invite you to write to me via my contact page: here with your intention.

See how you can spread devotion to the Passion by assisting in the campaign to provide my publication of meditations on the Passion written by a Passionist priest for novices. May this little effort of ours bear much fruit in the reform of the Church, starting with our own souls and the souls of as many future priests we can reach! Find more information out at the BOOKS4SEMS campaign.