Our Blessed Mother’s continual guiding presence marked the beginnings of the Passionist Congregation. Our tradition has it that she made known to our Holy Founder, St. Paul of the Cross, the mission God had assigned to him–that of founding the Passionists.
St. Paul of the Cross cherished a tender filial devotion to Mary, and honored her particularly under the titles of Our Mother of Sorrows, and Our Mother of Holy Hope.
When Paul wrote the primitive Rule of the Passionist Nuns, he legislated that Our Mother of Sorrows would be the “Abbess” of the monastery. The one elected as superior would be her representative.
Much of this history is commemorated below in the daily reflections for the Septenary in Honor of Our Mother of Sorrows.
Our Passionist Marian devotion is also expressed in the following and many other ways:
$ Each day, the Nuns are free to take time to pray the rosary at their own pace and with their own manner of meditating on the mysteries. This assures that it is not mindless rattling of vocal prayers, but truly “an exquisitely contemplative prayer”. (Cf Pope John Paul II, #12 of his Letter on the Rosary) “By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace....”
Every Saturday is devoted to honoring Mary by a Votive Mass and Office.
$ At the end of Night Prayer on Fridays of Lent and Ordinary Time, we sing several verses from the Stabat Mater as the closing Marian antiphon.
$ Total consecration to Jesus through Mary (the deMontfort consecration) is encouraged from the beginning of one’s religious life.
$ We pray in common a 9-day novena in preparation for the Feast of the Assumption (August 15), and a 7-day Septenary in preparation for the Feast of Our Mother of Sorrows (September 15).
$ We have a 4-day retreat in preparation for the devotional renewal of our vows on the feast of Mary’s Presentation in the Temple (November 21).
$ We have a private community May Procession and also an October Rosary Procession.
$ Passionist tradition has bequeathed us several wonderful communal prayers, among which are our Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (prayed on the feast of her Immaculate Heart), our Prayer to Our Mother of Sorrows (prayed on the feast of her Sorrows, along with the 7-Dolor Rosary), and our October Rosary prayer.
$ The constant contemplation with Mary of the Face of Christ in the mysteries of His life, death and resurrection, learning from her to “read” the Heart and Soul of Christ, to discover His secrets and understand His saving Word. (Cf. Pope John Paul II, Letter on the Rosary)
$ St. Paul of the Cross wrote in our primitive Rule: “Let them act as most loving and faithful handmaids and daughters of the Immaculate Mother of God, Mary Most Holy. Let them invoke her in all their bodily and spiritual needs, both personal and communal. Above all, let them go in spirit to Calvary every day, pondering and compassionating the most bitter sorrows suffered by her in the Passion and Death of her Divine Son. On occasions which may present themselves, let them also endeavor both by word and deed to instill this love, devotion and veneration for her sorrows in others.
$ After Night Prayer each day, we recite privately 7 Hail Marys in honor of her sorrows, to obtain the grace of perseverance in our holy vocation.
$ When a Nun is dying within the cloister, it is customary if possible, to bring to the side of the deathbed, the small statue of the Pieta, to comfort the dying Nun with the maternal presence and care of the Mother of Sorrows who stood by the cross of her dying Son.
$ The motto St. Paul of the Cross gave to the Passionist Congregation: “May the Passion of Jesus and the Sorrows of Mary be ever in our hearts!”
Truly, our devotion to the Passion of Jesus itself is very “Marian,” for who more than Our Blessed Mother could have loved Him more, shared His sufferings with Him more faithfully, or treasured more constantly the loving memories of Jesus impressed upon her heart?
Passionists are called to do as Mary does: “Mary constantly sets before the
faithful the mysteries of her Son, with the desire that the contemplation of
those mysteries will release all their saving power.” (Pope John Paul II,
Letter on the Rosary, #11)
We would like to invite you to join us in honoring Our Mother of Sorrows from Sept. 8 thru Sept 14.
Passionists all over the world will be praying a "Septenary" which is seven consecutive days of prayer in preparation for the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows on Sept. 15th.
Our holy Founder, St. Paul of the Cross, assigned Our Mother of Sorrows as "Abbess" or superioress of each monastery of Passionist Nuns. The one elected as superior is simply her representative among the Nuns.
We pray the Septenary in this way:
1) We recite the Seven Dolor Rosary daily
2) We ponder the following daily reflections for each day of the Septenary.
Our Sorrowful Mother stood faithfully with her Divine Son beneath the cross and shared in His sacrifice. She is the New Eve who, together with her Son, the New Adam, have given birth to each of the redeemed.
Septenary in Honor of
Our Mother of Sorrows
(Adapted from Mary, Queen of Our Congregation, by Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP and Fr. Ward Biddle, CP)
As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows, the principal Marian feast of the Passionist Congregation, we reflect together on Mary's place in our Passionist spirituality. This evening we begin by going back in spirit to the fall of 1721 when our Holy Founder was a young man being anointed by the Holy Spirit as the founder of what would become the Passionist Congregation.
Let us turn our eyes toward the basilica of St. Mary Majors in Rome, where high above the altar in the Marian Chapel is encased the famous icon of the Madonna and Child. All alone before the altar we see a lone figure clad in black. A young man from the north of Italy kneels in silent prayer. Impelled by anxiety and doubt, he casts himself into the arms of the Immaculate Mother of Jesus, confident of finding in her most loving heart an answer to his ardent prayer, and a refuge from the assaults of the devil which beset him on every side.
Paul Daneo confides to the Heart of Mary himself and the Congregation she has asked him to found. Into her hands he makes a vow to promote with all his strength devotion to the Passion of her Son. How he will fulfill this vow is left to her. She had appeared to him, clothed as he is now. Of that he is more certain than of the rough weave that meets his touch as his hand passes along his sleeve. From now on it would be up to her. He has placed his future and that of his Institute forever in her care. The Queen of Martyrs is Queen of his Congregation.
In 1948, at the request of the Superior General of the Congregation, Passionists all over the world consecrated themselves to Mary's Immaculate Heart, hailing her as Queen of Martyrs and Queen of the Passionist Congregation. This is the same Consecration Prayer that we renew each year on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In the Consecration we proclaim that "we are the sons and daughters of the Congregation... who glory in hailing you, O Mary, in a very special sense, our Mother and our Queen." This is a splendid fulfillment of that dark day in St Mary Majors when our Holy Founder knelt before the icon of Mary and in blind faith confided to her Heart the Congregation he was to found.
Every Passionist will want to understand more fully why Mary is Queen of the Passionist Congregation in a very special sense. To do so we must consider some of the theological reasons for Mary's Queenship, and then reflect on Mary as inspiration for the Passionist Congregation, and as its Mother and Model. This we will do as we honor the mystery of her Sorrows and her loving compassion for her Son throughout the Septenary.
During this Septenary, may the following petitions of our Consecration to Mary's Heart be fulfilled in each of us:
"Hide each one of us in your maternal heart which was pierced by the sword of most acute sorrow in the Passion; never permit us to leave it again. Make our hearts like yours; make us love prayer, solitude and poverty! Above all, impress the wounds of Jesus and your sorrows upon our hearts so that by word and by example we may be able to stir up our Christian people to remember them devoutly!"
This evening we reflect on Mary's titles to Queenship. In a radio broadcast on Fatima Day, May 13, 1946, Pope Pius XII said: "He the Son of God reflects on his heavenly Mother the glory, the majesty and the dominion of his kingdom, for having been associated with the King of Martyrs in the ineffable work of human redemption as Mother and Cooperatrix, Mary remains forever associated with him with an almost unlimited power, in the dispensation of graces which flow from the redemption. Jesus is King throughout eternal ages by nature and by conquest; through him, with him and subordinate to him, Mary is Queen by divine alliance, by conquest and by a singular election. And her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son, since nothing is excluded from her sovereignty." Eight years later, during the Marian year of 1954, this same Holy Father would officially proclaim Mary as Queen of the Universe.
Mary then is Queen, first of all by the natural right of her divine motherhood. Secondly, by right of conquest upon Calvary; and thirdly, as Mediatrix and Dispenser of all the grace Jesus acquired by his death. But the Queenship of Mary rests basically on what is called the principle of consortium---that is, the union of love between Jesus and Mary by which she lived the very life of her Son, and through a communion of pain and sorrow most properly deserved to become reparatrix of the sinful world.
Pope Leo XIII wrote: "The crown of the kingdoms of heaven and earth await her, because she will be the invincible Queen of Martyrs; it is thus that she will be seated in the heavenly city of God by the side of her Son, crowned for all eternity because she will drink with him the cup overflowing with sorrow...most faithfully on Calvary."
Pope Benedict XV spoke of Mary's communion of love and sorrow in this way: "The Blessed Virgin Mary...suffered and almost died with her suffering and dying Son; she abdicated her maternal rights over her Son for the salvation of souls, and in so far as it was within her power, she immolated her Son in order to appease the justice of God, in such a manner that we may rightly say that she redeemed the human race together with Christ."
She who was bodily the mother of our Head, became spiritually the mother of all his members, through the added title of pain and glory. Bearing as she did with courage and confidence the tremendous burden of her sorrows and desolation, Mary is truly the Queen of Martyrs.
On Calvary, the principle of consortium drew Mary into a communion of pain and sorrow with her Crucified Son. The nails were piercing her hands and feet, the thorns were encircling her head, the spear was truly transpiercing her Immaculate Heart. Together with Christ she was redeeming the human race.
Mary gave her consent to be the Mother of the Redeemer. Later, on Calvary, as Pius XII tells us, she abdicated her maternal rights and consented to Christ's death upon the cross. Thus by her fiat, Mary lifted Christ up on his cross. And when death came, her arms received the treasure of his lifeless body. From that moment on, no one can find Christ crucified unless in her arms. That is why Mary had to be present when the Congregation of the Passion was established. This communion of pain and sorrow which she has with her Son , could not be interrupted when the Congregation of the Passion was to be founded. We will hear more of this wondrous story as the Septenary moves on.
Having considered Mary as Queen and Co-Redemptrix, we now reflect on Mary as the inspiration of our Congregation. One of the Passionist Superiors General wrote the following: "The most sweet Mother of God is the loving Custodian of every religious order....Yet there are some who are more particularly obligated to her, because she appears as the one who communicated the idea, showed the form of its habit and intervened in its foundation. This most singular favor was granted to the least Congregation of the Passion."
We will not then be surprised to find Mary's presence at all important and crucial moments in the founding of the Congregation. In the Consecration to her Immaculate Heart we pray: "It was you who inspired your faithful servant, Paul of the Cross, to found this humble Institute which would continually remember the Passion and Death of your Divine Son, Jesus; you who deigned to appear to him clothed in this habit of mourning and penance which we wear; you who lovingly indicated the spot where the first Retreat was to rise...."
The idea of founding a new religious community developed slowly in the mind of Paul of the Cross. Yet, from the very beginning of his life, Mary showed that she had some special plan for him. We read in the processes for canonization that Mary saved Paul and his brother from drowning in a river. When Paul entered early manhood, he remained uncertain about his vocation. Then flashes of light began to illuminate the distant horizon.
In his preface to the primitive rule, Paul records his first strong desire for solitude. While on a journey, he saw a tiny church in the distance, "and seeing it," Paul wrote, "I felt my heart moved with a longing for such solitude....Ever after, I kept this desire in my heart." Was it only a coincidence that the tiny church was dedicated to the Most Holy Madonna?
Then in the summer of 1720, when Paul was returning home after Mass and Communion, he suddenly felt himself wrapped in ecstasy. How could he possibly think of anything else when before him was the Mother of God? She was clothed in a black habit of mourning and she said to him: "You see, my son, how I am dressed. This is on account of the most sorrowful death of my beloved Son Jesus. You are to dress in the same way, and to found a Congregation which will sorrow continually with me over the Passion and death of my Beloved Son." Mary's words show that she longs to share with Paul and with all of us her communion of pain and sorrow with her crucified Son. She wants to give Passionists what is such an intimate part of her own life: her loving sorrow for Christ Crucified.
On Nov. 22, 1720, Paul was vested in the black habit of the Passion, but without the Passion Sign. Then followed his 40 days' retreat during which he wrote the primitive rule. Mary was slowly bringing into reality the great work for the Church which she had begun in Paul. On Sept. 8, 1721, Paul was sailing along the coast of Italy when in the distance he saw a mountain rising out of the sea. Only a narrow strip of land connected it with the coast. Within his heart he heard Mary's call: "Paul, Paul, I am all alone. Come to Monte Argentario." There on this lonely mountain, Mary indicated the spot where the first retreat was to rise. She appeared to Paul over the branches of an olive tree. When Paul built the retreat years later, the choir area occupied the place where the tree once grew.
In the critical years ahead, Mary remained by Paul's side, directing and guiding him. Three of the Congregation's most important favors from the Holy Father were all granted on the vigil of the Assumption. It was to acknowledge this that the first retreats and provinces were all named after Mary. This beautiful story of Mary's inspiration for the Passionist Congregation will be continued tomorrow evening.
If we study the characteristics of our Holy Founder's spiritual life, we see that Mary was there as his Queen and Mother. The highest graces of Paul's interior life came as an overflow from Mary's heart. On one occasion, "the Mother of God appeared to Paul holding the Divine Child in her arms....He heard the Blessed Virgin ask if he were willing to celebrate the mystical marriage of his soul with the Divine Word....A golden ring, embossed with the signs of the Sacred Passion, was then placed upon his finger by the Blessed Virgin. At the same time he was given to understand that as a consequence of this espousal, he must continually recall to mind the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Christ."
Devotion to Mary was like a sea of love and sorrow that surged in and engulfed his whole being. He himself testified to two vows: to believe and to defend Mary's Immaculate Conception and her glorious Assumption. This devotion flooded over into his letters: "Love this infinite Good with the sweet Heart of this great Lady." "Enter into that chamber of love, which is her sacred Heart." Even in poetry he sang of Mary: "Run to Mary, to your Mother, Loving Mary, Queen of all....Quickly, loving trust will smother All your fears, if you be small....Yet I still a space would grieve For the sorrows of our Queen. Then this vale of tears would leave For the land where she is seen."
These words of Paul give evidence of Mary's power over his life. And he confided the Passionist Congregation into her care. He wrote: "Mary most holy, may she protect it (the least Congregation) and provide saintly workers, because she is the treasury of all graces." And again: "Yesterday I celebrated solemn Mass for all five retreats and I placed them in the hands of Mary most holy." In 1765, Paul wrote to Mother Mary Crucified, co-foundress of the Passionist Nuns, that he wants Mary to be the Abbess of their monasteries.
When the evening of Paul's life came, he would not leave his children orphans. After receiving Viaticum on Aug. 30, 1775, Paul spoke these words to the assembled community at Saints John and Paul's: "You, O Virgin Immaculate, Queen of Martyrs, by your sorrows so vast in the Passion of your most beloved Son, give to all of us your maternal blessing, while I confide and leave all these beneath the mantle of your protection."
Devotion to Mary is an integral element in the spirituality of the Passionist Congregation. In the Passion narratives of the Gospel, it is impossible to pass over the part played by the Mother of the Redeemer, the new Eve. Mary, standing beneath the cross, brought to perfection her work of maternal co-redemption. Our Holy Founder, in preaching the Passion, would often give meditations on the heart to heart colloquy between Jesus and Mary before he began his Passion, when he asked her consent to go to his death, and also on the meeting between Jesus and Mary along the way of the cross. Paul very often spoke of the Sea of the Passion and at the same time of the Sea of Mary's Dolors.
Paul strongly repeated to all: "Devotion to Mary must be true, solid and fruitful; true devotion consists not merely in prayers, pilgrimages, fasts and abstinences, but in the assiduous imitation of her virtues; otherwise God and his Mother would be constrained to use the words first addressed to the Jews: 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.' One who wishes to please Mary must humble and empty him or herself, because Mary was the most humble of all creatures, and for this reason she pleased God more than all other creatures."
Every model is a teacher, imparting knowledge by way of action if not by word. The Mother of Sorrows impresses her lessons on the souls of Passionists who contemplate her standing beside the cross of Christ. We are to be citizens of Golgotha; we make our home on Calvary in the company of Mary and John, the beloved disciple, and the holy women who remained faithful to Jesus when all others abandoned him. Here we desire to learn the wisdom of the cross, from Mary who, as St Bernard says, "penetrated beyond all belief into the deepest abyss of divine wisdom."
We hail Mary as the Seat of Wisdom, and the liturgy often applies to her texts from the wisdom books of the Old Testament. Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, is indeed an overflowing fountain of this wisdom who is Christ and him crucified. Passionists can learn this divine wisdom by listening in prayer to her instruction, by watching daily in meditation this Model whom God has given us on Calvary, and by following the ways of her example. Mary is the best teacher of the wisdom hidden in the wounds of Christ.
Pope St. Pius X taught: "No one has known Christ more intimately than Mary....No one is better able to be our guide and teacher in this knowledge of Christ than she....Through the Virgin and chiefly through her, a way has been opened for us to acquire the knowledge of Christ." The wisdom of the cross cannot be grasped without the help of one who has gone before us on the path of truth. Mary can point the way, because she followed Christ on the first way of the cross, mingling her tears with his blood. Therefore, we must go to the Seat of Wisdom, to penetrate the darkness of Calvary and to learn the mystery of redemption.
This grace is very personal to Mary, flowing from within her very heart. This grace reproduces the mysteries of her life in souls, who thus become faithful copies of their Model. Few of our Lady's mysteries were more personal to her than that of standing beside the cross in her communion of pain and sorrow with her Son. This compassion was a grace she could claim as her own by every right. This profound understanding of Jesus' sentiments of mind and heart was so intimate and personal to his Mother that it can be said to flow from within her very Heart. When Mary dispenses graces like this to us, she is opening her Heart to us, revealing and sharing the inmost secrets of her Heart.
Mary has called our Congregation into existence to associate us with herself in this mystery which is so personal to her. She wants to reproduce it in our souls, to share with us her union of pain and sorrow with her Divine Son. We are to become one heart and soul with her in this.
Passionist need to contemplate the Passion. The grace by which we are given to appreciate the mystery of the cross and to know the surpassing love of Christ is one of the deepest secrets of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is undoubtedly one of her choicest graces. The vocation to receive a confidence so personal to her is a most solid reason for claiming Mary as our Queen by special right. This reproduction of her compassion in our hearts is the fulfillment of her role as the perfect Model for our contemplation of the Passion.
Having considered Our Mother of Sorrows as the overflowing fountain of the wisdom who is Christ crucified, and also having considered her as the perfect Model for our contemplation of his Passion, let us this evening reflect on the manner by which she dispenses these graces to our souls and how she exercises her influence upon us. Mary's instrumentality in grace is totally maternal, for she forms us to her likeness as a mother does. The reproduction of her compassion for Jesus in our hearts is imparted to Passionists who learn to hide themselves within the heart-womb of this Mother of Sorrows.
In treating of Mary's part in the Passion of her Son, St. Albert the Great wrote: "She received in her heart the wounds that he received in his body." And so we ask Mary in our Consecration to "Hide us in your heart." Why? The answer lies in the further plea: "Make our hearts like yours." In the Heart of Mary pierced and wounded by the sufferings of Christ, our hearts will be in line for a similar grace. Her Heart is, as it were, a mold in which our hearts can be formed to her likeness.
Assuredly there is no question here of an actual presence in the Heart of Mary. These are bold symbols and the language of desire. But they are founded on the sound psychology of St. Thomas. If Mary's causality in grace is maternal, it is because of her incomparable motherly love, of which her Heart is the best symbol. In God's providence, this love of Mary holds within its power the determination and distribution of all graces to our souls. We beg entrance within the shelter of her love, that by the power of her intercession, she might mold our hearts to the image of her own. Hiding thus within her Heart, we admire the peerless example of our Model in her consortium with Christ.
We ask of her: "Impress the wounds of Jesus and your own sufferings upon our hearts." This grace is actually that "fellowship in Christ's sufferings" that St Paul longed for so ardently. It is that association in the Sacred Passion that the Stabat Mater sings about:
O thou Mother, fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with thine accord.
Make me feel as thou has felt,
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ my Lord.
Mary's intercession with God is charged with divine power, acting upon us in an efficacious way to produce supernatural effects in our souls. Wisely therefore, do we Passionists seek refuge in Mary's love symbolized by her Heart. There, as a child in the womb of its mother, we are formed to the likeness of our Mother and Model. "Make our hearts like yours. Make us love prayer, solitude, and poverty. And above all, impress the wounds of Jesus and your sorrows on our hearts so that by word and example we may be able to reawaken in our Christian people the devout remembrance of them."
According to our Holy Founder, devotion to the Passion of Jesus and devotion to the Sorrows of Mary go hand in hand. To his own meditation on the sufferings of Christ, Paul was accustomed to join the consideration of the Sorrows of His Mother. He begged for a share in her spirit of compassion, and exhorted others to think constantly on the Passion of Jesus and on her own sharp and unfathomable griefs. "Allow yourself to be penetrated by the sufferings of Jesus and the sorrows of Mary," he advised. Paul looked upon the Mother's sorrows as the atmosphere in which to contemplate the suffering of Jesus. During this Septenary, let us pray for the grace to contemplate the Passion through the eyes of Mary and within her Heart.
On this vigil of our principal Marian feast, the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows, we will consider Mary as the directress of the mission of the Passionist Congregation.
The Mariological principle of consortium cannot be overemphasized. St. Albert the Great wrote: "The Blessed Virgin was drawn by Our Lord not into ministry, but into consortium as a helpmate. Her role is not vicarious. She is a co-worker and companion, a sharer in the kingdom as she was sharer in the sufferings for the human race...." Here on Calvary we have the principle of consortium at its climax. Towards this all the events in the lives of Jesus and Mary have led. Mary's association with her Son in all his mysteries was directed to this supreme communion of pain and sorrow.
In consequence of this union with Christ in the Passion, Mary in heaven is forever associated with her Son as the principal dispenser of His grace. It is from her queenly throne that she directs the distribution of grace. The saints and doctors of Mariology insist that "every grace is communicated to the world in three steps: for it is dispensed in the most orderly fashion from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, and from the Virgin to us. St. Bernadine taught that 'all the gifts, all the virtues and all the graces of the Holy Spirit are distributed through her hands, to whom she wills, when she wills, as she wills, and as much as she wills'."
Every apostolate therefore must be exercised within this framework. The rebirth, sanctification and salvation of every soul is under the direction of Mary, Mother of Divine Grace. From the heart of the beatific vision she sees each of her children, and seeing their needs, provides for them. She watches over and protects the faith of the Church. St. Germaine once wrote this prayer to Mary: "Hail, fountain from which flow the rivers of divine wisdom in waves of the purest and clearest orthodoxy, and dispel the current of error."
When the Mother of Sorrows came to Paul Daneo to ask him to found the Congregation, she was calling a new religious institute into being, a group of consecrated souls with whom she would share her choicest graces. This new institute was to make a life work of contemplating and preaching the sufferings of her Son. Mary wanted our Congregation to be a channel of grace for dispensing the riches her Son and she had won on Calvary. It was really a co-redemptive work that Mary had in mind; co-redemptive in the sense of carrying out the work of redemption. Mary had stood by the cross of Jesus, co-redeeming in spiritual maternity, and she wants us to help her in this work. Mary is Queen of Apostles in every age, but she performs her work especially in and through those closest to her. Looking constantly to her for direction, we will be more docile instruments in her hands.
What words can express the sentiments that fill our hearts, seeing Mary's predilection for our Passionist Congregation? Tonight we end these reflections with words from our Consecration to her Immaculate Heart: "With most lively gratitude, O Mary, we thank you for so many benefits; particularly for having called us to form part of this Institute. In order that we may better correspond to our vocation and grow in your love and more effectively obtain your powerful aid amid present threatening necessities and perils, we confide and consecrate to your Immaculate Heart ourselves, our houses, our ministry and our sufferings. Deign to regard us henceforth as your property. Dispose of us and of all that belongs to us as you please, according to the desires of your Divine Son, Jesus...."
I wish each of you abundant feastday graces and blessings as we celebrate tomorrow the feast of the Mother of our Passionist Congregation---Mary, Our Mother of Sorrows.
Back to top