'It is to be a martyr, to suffer patiently, and with gratitude, the ills inseparable from our human existence, and which are common both to the just and to sinners, and we are not deprived of the glory which is attached to this title because we have not shed our blood in honour of Jesus Christ."
- St. Cyprian
Catholic Life Imprimatur 1908
There is one attribute common to all the human race, no matter what in life, age, or race they may be, and that is suffering. For such a common ill there must be palliatives, which, while not curing, render them more tolerable and meritorious. The remembrance of the patience of the Man-God in His unspeakable afflictions must always be our great solace; as also the thought that our night of suffering is the dawn of hope, and that suffering is a school in which we are taught to grow in holiness by God Himself; for the soul is purified in the furnace of affliction as precious metals are by fire. Our holy mother the Church, anxious to afford her children every help possible, proposes this month the consideration of the sorrows of our Blessed Lady, to show us that sufferings accompany the highest sanctity, and to point out to us a model for imitation. From the time of Simeon's prophecy - forty days after the birth of her Divine Son - her sufferings may be said to have lasted till her death. At times they were more intense, as when she had to fly with her Child to Egypt to save His life; when she lost Him for three days; at her meeting Him carrying His Cross; when she stood beneath the Cross and saw the soldier pierce His side with a lance; or when she laid Him in the sepulcher.
When we consider Who was the Son, who the Mother, and what the sufferings, we can easily understand why she is styled “Queen of Martyrs." Moreover, there were circumstances which increased her sufferings immensely, and which are apt to escape our notice; for example, she suffered from the thought that her sufferings were an additional cause of the pain to her Divine Son, Who loved her as no other son loved his mother; and then she was so helpless that she could not sooth His pains by such ordinary means as a cup of water or a caress. Thus, we can never consider the sorrows of Mary without coupling them with the sorrows of her Son. The two are so inseparably united that she is styled the co-redemptress of the world, and thus we can understand her deep sympathy and readiness to succour poor sinners. Only those who have suffered can measure the depths of others' woes, and sympathize with crushed and wounded hearts: and as no one, after Jesus, has suffered so much as our
Blessed Mother, so no one, after Jesus, can dry our tears, lighten our cross, or soothe our grief’s, like Mary. She will show us the value of sufferings, which detach us from the things of earth, make us desire heavenly goods, and increase our merit in Heaven by causing us to practice many virtues, especially patience, resignation, and sympathy for others. In our trials and sufferings, let us, in imitation of our Blessed Lady, perform our daily duties as if we were free from sorrow. Let us pray, making short, affectionate, frequent aspirations of resignation, love, and confidence. Let us forget our grief's by sympathizing with and helping those whose troubles are heavier than our own. "Gentle Mother, we beseech thee, By thy tears and troubles sore, By the death of thy dear offspring, By the many wounds He bore, Touch our hearts with that true sorrow Which afflicted thee of yore."
Example - St. Ignatius of Loyola
There is preserved at Saragossa, in Spain, a picture of Our Lady of Seven Dolours, which was much used by St. Ignatius. It is an ordinary print, representing Mary seated at the foot of the Cross, her heart pierced by a sword, her hands joined, and her head lowered. The features express profound affliction, combined with peace and resignation. The Saint held this picture in singular veneration. He wore it on his breast from the time of his conversion till his death, a period of thirty-five years. He assures us that he had received from God, by means of this devotion, extraordinary graces on all occasions. No wonder, then, that he was so full of tenderness for others. At the beginning of his stay in Paris, he had entrusted the little money he possessed to a young Spaniard, who, after spending part of it, ran away with the rest, leaving the Saint utterly destitute, and obliged to interrupt his studies in order to beg for his daily bread.
Some time afterwards, hearing that this youth was dangerously ill at Rouen, Ignatius instantly left Paris, and walked barefooted to that city - seventy miles - hardly stopping to rest on the way. He nursed the young man with tenderest care, collected money to pay his way home, and only left him when he was sufficiently recovered to proceed on his road towards Spain.
This Weeks Friday (Spiritual) Friday Fare
By: Thomas Aquinas Imprimatur 1937
Passion Friday - OUR LADY S SUFFERING IN THE PASSION
Thy own soul a sword shall pierce. Luke ii. 35. In these words there is noted for us the close association of Our Lady with the Passion of Christ.
Four things especially made the Passion most bitter for her. They refused Him even water, nor would they allow His His mother, who would most lovingly have given it, to help Him. Thirdly, the disgrace of the punishment, Let us condemn him to a most shameful death (Wis. ii. 20). Fourthly, the cruelty of the torment. O ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorroiv (Lam. i. 12).
(Serm.) The words of Simeon, Thy own soul a sword shall pierce Origen, and other doctors with him, explain with reference to the pain felt by Our Lady in the Passion of Christ. St. Ambrose, however, says that by the sword is signified Our Lady's prudence, thanks to which she was not without knowledge of the heavenly mystery. For the word of God is a living thing, strong and keener than the keenest sword (cf. Heb. iv. 12). Other writers again, St. Augustine for example, understand by the sword the stupefaction that overcame Our Lady at the death of her Son, not the doubt that goes with lack of faith but a certain fluctuation of bewilderment, a staggering of the mind. St. Basil, too, says that as Our Lady
stood by the cross with all the detail of the Passion before her, and in her mind the testimony of Gabriel, the message that words cannot tell of her divine conception, and all the vast array of miracles, her mind swayed, for she saw Him the victim of such vileness, and yet knew Him for the author of such wonders. (3 27 4 ad 2.)
Firstly, the goodness of her son, Who did no sin (i Pet. ii. 22). Secondly, the cruelty of those who crucified Him, shown, for example, in this that as He lay dying. Although Our Lady knew by faith that it was God s will that Christ should suffer, and although she brought her will into unity with God s will
in this matter, as the saints do, nevertheless, sadness filled her soul at the death of Christ. This was because her lower will revolted at the particular thing she had willed and this is not contrary to perfection. (i Dist. 48 q unica a 3.)
"The cross is my sure salvation; the cross I ever adore; the cross of my Lord is with me; the cross is my refuge."
Could you Explain Catholic Practices?
By: Rev. Charles J. Mullaly, S.J. Imprimatur 1937
Non-Catholics are often puzzled on seeing a crucifix in a Catholic home. Some foolishly believe that Catholics adore the cross. Catholics adore God alone, and they adore Christ because He is God and our Saviour. We venerate the cross for what it means, just as we venerate or hold in esteem a picture or photograph of our mother, to remind us of her love. The cross, as St. Paul frequently tells us, is the sacred symbol of the Passion of our Saviour , and as such it is ever placed before us by the Church to remind us of Christ's love for us. It is the emblem of our faith in Christ crucified. We kiss it with veneration as a loving child would kiss the picture of his mother.
There is a difference between a cross and crucifix. A cross becomes a crucifix only when it bears the corpus or figure of Christ. Both, however, are to us a symbol of the Redemption. The cross was the instrument on which the Romans cruelly put to death recalcitrant slaves and criminals, and it was on this instrument of ignominy that Christ died for us. Hence, it became not only a sign of the Christian religion, but a symbol of Christian virtue, namely, victory over passions and of suffering endured for Christ's sake. Thus, also, arose from earliest times the custom of making the Sign of the Cross, especially before beginning any undertaking. The pagans called the primitive Christians "cross-worshipers."
The story of the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, is the most interesting. She caused excavations to be made on Mount Calvary, in the year 326. Deep in the ground, and at some distance apart, three crosses were found, together with the detached "titulus," or inscription which Pontius Pilate had placed on the Cross of our Saviour. As there was no way of identifying the True Cross, Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, suggested that each of the three be applied to a sick woman, with the prayer that God would reveal which was the Cross of our Saviour. The miracle happened, the woman was cured, and parts of the Cross were distributed to various churches. One portion was kept in Jerusalem, and was later lost when the Saracens took the city in the seventh century. Another was sent to Rome; a third to Constantinople. While the finding of the Cross is not an article of Faith, it would be foolish not to believe the story, for such early writers of the Church as St. Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 315-386), St. Ambrose (A.D. 340-397), St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 344-403) and Rufinus (A.D. 645-410) confirm the fact, and the Feast of the Finding of the Cross dates from very early times in Jerusalem.
One of the earliest symbols of the cross is the anchor, because of its similarity to the cross. From being a symbol of hope, it took on a high meaning, a hope based on the Cross of Christ. There are many types of crosses, but Christ was crucified on what is known as the "crux immissa" or Latin cross, in which the transverse beam was set two-thirds up the vertical beam.
The letters I.N.R.I. on the crucifix are an abbreviation of the words "Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum," namely "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," the inscription which was placed above the head of Christ. The Indulgences on a blessed crucifix are attached to the corpus; hence if the figure of Christ is lost, the cross is no longer an Indulgenced crucifix.
From: A Catholic dictionary : containing some account of the doctrine, discipline, rites, ceremonies, councils, and religious orders of the Catholic church (1887)
The cross, as we have shown in an earlier article, was used in Christian worship from the earliest times ; the crucifix, or representation of Christ crucified, was probably introduced much later. No crucifix has been found in the Catacombs ; no certain allusion to a crucifix is made by any Christian writer of the first four centuries. It is true that in excavations made on the Palatine hill near the church of St. Anastasia, a picture was found on the wall known as the "blasphemous crucifix." A figure with the body of a man and the head of an ass is hanging on a cross, a slave stands by adoring the figure, and the inscription in Greek uncials, runs "Alexamenus worships [his]God." This caricature belongs no doubt to the ante-Nicene age ; but does it prove the use of crucifixes among Christians at hat time ? It might be regarded as an additional proof were other and more convincing ones forthcoming. As it is, we must suppose that a heathen, having heard that the Christians worshipped a crucified God, and being also familiar with the common calumny that the Christians worshipped the head of an ass, combined the two ideas in his rude fresco. In the first four centuries, then, there is no conclusive evidence that Christian* ever placed a figure on the cross.
In the iifth century it became usual to t the figure of a lamb or even a bust of Christ on the cross, sometimes above, sometimes below, sometimes in the middle and many crucifixes of this kind still exist. St. Paulinas of Nola (Ep. 32) describes one of them in the words "Sub cruce sanguinea niveo atat Christus in agno ;" so that the cross here must have been red, the figure on it white. From the sixth century onwards crucifixes in the strict sense were in use. St. Gregory of Tours (" De Gloria Martyrum," 1, 2, 3), towards the end of the sixth century, mentions a picture of the crucifixion in the church of St. Genesius at Narbonne. A small cross of brass with the figure of Christ on it was found in the grave of the Frankish sovereign Chilperic. A SyriacMS. of the Gospels,written in 586, and now in Florence, contains a picture of the crucifixion. In 692 the Synod in Trullo, recognising a custom which had already become predominant, decreed (can. 82) that for the future, instead of the Lamb, the figure of Christ should be placed on the cross. We pass on to speak of the form given to the crucifix. In the Syriac book of the Gospels, Christ is completely clothed, with hands and feet nailed, each foot being fastened by a separate nail. In the crucifix at Narbonne described by St. Gregory, Christ's body was almost naked. But in one point all the earliest crucifixes agreed. They all represented Christ, as nailed, indeed, to the cross, but with open eyes, in dignified repose, and without any trace of pain on his face. Sometimes a royal crown was placed on his head.
When the Greeks, though not before the tenth century, painted Christ on the cross, with anatomical correctness, as dying or already dead, the innovation gave great scandal to the Latins. Cardinal Humbert attacked the Greeks for this practice in very violent language, while a synod1 under the schismatical patriarch Michael Cerularius speaks of godless men from the West who anathematised the orthodox church because it " did not change unnaturally the form of man " which Christ took. Gradually, however, the Greek custom prevailed even in the West, partly because it was reasonable, partly because Greek artists often settled in Western Europe ; and D'Agincourt gives copies of Italian crucifixes from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries which follow the Greek fashion. " (From Hefele,
Meditations for Lent
By: Thomas Aquinas
Fourth Monday - CHRIST BY His PASSION MERITED TO BE EXALTED
He became obedient unto death even to the death of the cross : for which cause God hath exalted him. Phil. ii. 8.
Merit is a thing which implies a certain equality of justice. Thus St. Paul says, To him that worketh the reward is reckoned according to debt (Rom. iv. 4). Now since a man who commits an injustice takes for himself more than is due to himself, it is just that he suffer loss even in what is actually due to him. If a man steals one sheep, he shall give back four as it says in Holy Scripture (Exod. xxii. i). And this is said to be merited inasmuch as in this way the man s evil will is punished. In the same way the man who acts with such justice that he take less than what is due to him, merits that more shall be generously superadded to what he has, as a kind of reward for his just will. So, for instance, the gospel tells us, He that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke xiv. 1 1). Now in His Passion Christ humbled himself below His dignity in four respects : (i) In respect of His Passion and His death, things which He did not owe to undergo. (ii) In respect to places, for His body was placed in a grave and his soul in hell. (iii) In respect to the confusion and shame that He endured. (iv) In respect to His being delivered over to human authority, as He said Himself to Pilate, Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above (John xix. n).
Therefore, on account of His Passion, He merited a fourfold exaltation. (i) A glorious resurrection. It is said in the Psalm (Ps. cxxxviii. i), Thou hast known my sitting down, that is, the humiliation of my Passion, and my rising up. (ii) An ascension into heaven. Whence it is said, He descended first into the lower parts of the earth : He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens (Eph. iv. 9, 10). (iii) To be seated at the right hand of the Father, with His divinity made manifest. Isaias says, He shall be exalted, and extolled, and shall be exceeding high. As many have been astonished at thee, so shall his visage be inglorious among men, and St. Paul says, He became obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God hath exalted him and hath given him a name which is above all names (Phil. ii. 8, 9), that is to say, He shall be named God by all, and all shall pay Him reverence as God. And this is why St. Paul adds, That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (ibid. x). (iv) A power of judgment. For it is said, Thy cause hath been judged as that of the wicked. Cause and judgment thou shalt recover (Job xxxvi. 17). (3. 49. 6.)
Meditations for Lent
By: St. Thomas Aquinas
THE PASSION OF CHRIST HAS DELIVERED US FROM THE DEVIL
Our Lord said, as His Passion drew near, Now shall the princes of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself (John xii. 31, 32). He was lifted up from the earth by His Passion on the cross. Therefore by that Passion the devil was driven out from his dominion over men. With reference to that power, which, before the Passion of Christ, the devil used to exercise over mankind, three things are to be borne in mind. 1. Man had by his sin earned for himself enslavement to the devil, for it was by the devil's temptation that he had been overcome. 2. God, whom man in sinning had offended, had, by his justice, abandoned man to the enslavement of the devil. 3. The devil by his own most wicked will stood in the way of man s achieving his salvation. With regard to the first point the Passion of Christ set man free from the devil's power because the Passion of Christ brought about the forgiveness of sin. As to the second point the Passion delivered man from the devil, because it brought about a reconciliation between God and man.
As to the third point, the Passion of Christ freed us from the devil's power because in his action during the Passion the devil over-reached himself. He went beyond the limits of the power over men allowed to him by God, when he plotted the death of Christ, upon whom, since he was without sin, there lay no debt payable by death. Whence St. Augustine's words, "The devil was overcome by the justice of Christ. In Him the devil found nothing that deserved death, but, none the less, he slew him. And it was but just that those debtors that the devil detained should go free since they believed in Him whom, though he was under no bond to him, the devil had slain." The devil still continues to exercise a power over men. He can, God permitting it, tempt them in soul and in body. There is, however, made available for man a remedy in the Passion of Christ, by means of which he can defend himself against these attacks, so that they do not lead him into the destruction of eternal death. Likewise all those who before the Passion of Christ resisted the devil had derived their power to resist from the Passion, although the Passion had not yet been accomplished. But in one point none of those who lived before the Passion had been able to escape the hand of the devil, namely, they all had to go down into hell, a thing from which, since the Passion, all men can, by his power, defend themselves.
God also allows the devil to deceive men in certain persons, times and places, according to the hidden character of His designs. Such, for example, will be anti-Christ. But there always remains, and for the age of anti-Christ too, a remedy prepared for man through the Passion of Christ, a power of protecting himself against the wickedness of the devils. The fact that there are some who neglect to make use of this remedy does not lessen the efficacy of the Passion of Christ. (3. 49 2)
"Let us not speak ill of the Cross, it has been sent to us
to warn us, to detach us from the earth, to lead us to
our end. Let us leave it only to cast ourselves into God.
We have much need of suffering, let us suffer well."
~ Pere de Ravignan ~
Sunday Morning Storyland
By: Rev. Wilfrid J. Diamond Impr.1945
No Cross, No Crown; Chumley, the Pious English Setter
"You seek Jesus of Nazareth. He is risen."
This is Easter morning. We are going to learn a lesson today from a very smart dog. This dog is an English setter by the name of Chumley. If his master would put a piece of meat in front of him and say, "Now it is Lent," Chumley would not eat the meat, but would stand there with his big eyes gleaming until his master would say, "Now it is Easter." Then Chumley would gobble up the meat and bark very happily. Chumley found out that he got a lot more meat this way than he would ordinarily get, so he even learned the trick in three languages.
This morning, we learn a lesson from Chumley. It is the lesson which the Church has been trying to teach us since Lent began, namely that we must have the fast before the feast, the cross before the crown. If we learn this lesson now and remember it all our lives, we can save ourselves a lot of trouble. It means that we must not always be looking for an easy way out of things. Our Lord could have chosen the easy way out, but He did not.
King Charles Vance called his son before him and offered him a choice. On the table he placed a sword and crown.
He said, "Which do you choose?" The son hesitated a moment and then picked up the sword. "Why the sword?" his father asked. The son took up the sword and pointed it at the crown and said, "With this, I can get that." So it is with us. With the sword of penance we can gain the crown of eternal life, but the cross comes before the crown.
Hercules once stood at the crossroads wondering which way to turn. Two guides approached him. One said, "Follow me. This is the road of pleasure and the easy way." The other said, "This is the road of effort, the hard way. This is the hard way, but it leads to happiness." Hercules chose the hard road and made a wise choice, because the cross comes before the crown, the fast before the feast.
King Cyrus of Persia was leading his troops on a campaign against their enemy Media. At one point the soldiers were tired and anxious to return home. Cyrus encouraged them by saying, "If you fight the Medes now, the labor is short but the reward is long." He was right and that was the lesson we must learn this morning, that Lent comes before Easter, that the Crucifixion comes before the Resurrection, the fast before the feast- the cross before the crown.