Seven Dolor Rosary
Holy Mother, pierce me through
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Jesus, crucified.
(Reflections adapted from Mary, Queen of Our Congregation, by Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP and Fr. Ward Biddle, CP)
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.”