Archive for February, 2006

Jesus in Gethsemane

In the Passionist calendar, the day before Ash Wednesday is celebrated as the memoria of our Lord Jesus Christ praying in the Garden. The Mass and Liturgy of the Hours focus on the persevering prayer of Jesus in a time of suffering and temptation and how this prayer was the prelude to his Passion. In the scriptures and in the mysteries of the rosary, the Agony in the Garden is seen as the beginning of the story of Christ’s Passion. (In the eighteenth century, however, it was usual to precede the meditation on the Agony in the Garden with a meditation on Jesus saying farewell to his Mother before setting out on the way to Jerusalem, seeing this parting as the first pain of Calvary.) Today’s Divine Office and Mass point to Jesus as our example in the life of prayer, taking the text of the Letter to the Hebrews which speaks of how he prayed “aloud and in silent tears” and “learned to obey through suffering” (Heb. 5: 7-8).

Saint Vincent Mary Strambi” O christiane, qui pretioso hoc sanguine redimeris, siste hic devotus cordeque contritus, et mysterium contemplare.” –The second reading at the Office of Readings is from Saint Vincent Mary Strambi on the Precious Blood of Christ. Saint Vincent promoted the devotion to the Precious Blood in his writings, preaching and spiritual direction. One of his directees was the young Saint Gaspare del Bufalo, who went on to found the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.

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Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

Salve, receptus candida

sede Angelorum, Gabriel,

cuius perennem gloriam

et mira gentes efferunt.


Salve, dolorum particeps

et gaudiorum Virginis:

virtute per quam fulseras,

per hanc corona cingeris.


Nostris secundam casibus

caeli preceris Arbitram:

pro fratribus te supplice,

nil Virgo Mater abnuet.


Pravis referta erroribus

instat scatebra ab inferis:

hanc, te rogante, exterminet

Maria, victrix haeresis.

(Hymn for Lauds – I have a translation of this somewhere; if I find it, I’ll post it later.)
Today is the feast of Saint Gabriel, Passionist student, who died at Isola del Gran Sasso (Italy) in 1862. He was born in Assisi and baptised at the same font as Saint Francis of Assisi, whose name he was given in baptism (Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was his religious name).
Baptismal Font, Cathedral of San Rufino, Assisi

You can read about the life of Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows here.

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Almighty and eternal God, in your wonderful providence you choose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. Look favourably on this little flock of your servants gathered under the standard of the holy Cross and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we, who have been called together in your name, grow in every virtue and so, by your mercy, be one with you, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Stir up your power, Lord, glorify your hand, and with kindness stretch out your right arm over us, so that we will be capable of defending your holy Church even with our blood, wiping out the vices of your people, defeating the enemies of the Cross of Christ, and imprinting on the hearts of the faithful the devotion to the Passion of the Lord. Show us, we pray, all that we should do and suffer for your Name, so that the world will come to know you, God Holy, Strong, Immortal, and the one whom you have sent, your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Prayer of Saint Paul of the Cross (approved by Pope Benedict XIV, 16 September 1746)

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This evening we celebrate first vespers of the Solemn Commemoration of the Passion, the titular feast of the Passionist Congregation, celebrated on the Friday before Ash Wednesday. This feast, which was instituted by Saint Paul of the Cross, is a joyful celebration of the mystery of Good Friday, focussing on the Passion as “the most overwhelming sign of God’s love” (Saint Paul of the Cross). The concluding prayer this evening reminds us of the mission of the Passionist community to remember (contemplate) and proclaim (preach) the redeeming Passion of Jesus: “…Concede nobis famulis tuis ut, eiusdem Passionis recolentes, testes Redemptionis inveniamur in mundo.”

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First Consistory

Pope Benedict XVI named new cardinals today. I remember reading some years ago that when the recently elected Pope Leo XIII was asked what kind of pope he would be, he said that those who wanted to know should look at the names of those included in his first consistory. I wonder what Pope Benedict was saying today about his pontificate. Certainly the learned and holy Father Vanhoye s.j. is a model of scholarship and sanctity, as was one of Leo’s first cardinals, John Henry Newman.

(In 1846, Leo was Nuncio to Belgium and received a vivid first hand account of Newman’s entry into “the one true fold of the Redeemer” from his Passionist friend, Blessed Dominic Barberi: “Dominic stayed on for three days with his converts at Littlemore, went on to Belgium for the Chapter, and had an interview with Monsignor Pecci, the Apostolic Nuncio at Brussels, on whom he left impressions that were to be lifelong.” -Urban Young c.p., Life and Letters of Father Dominic, London, 1926, p.259.)

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Can you name even one of them?

Today’s feast of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order is a good reminder that heroic status and holiness are not the same thing. Most of us would have difficulty in naming even one or two of the seven; they are celebrated as the group of people who became the Order of Servants of Mary. The cult of personality, so important these days, is totally absent on this memorial of people who responded to the Lord’s invitation together.

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Paolo selvagio e santo

Saint Paul of the Cross by Gian Domenico Della Porta (1773). This portrait shows Paul at about 79 years of age, just two years before his death. When Paul died on 18 October 1775, it was Porta who would be asked to make the death mask. His Last Testament, spoken by Paul to his community after he had received the Viaticum, underlines his concern for the essentials:
“Above all, I urgently exhort you to observe that holy command that Jesus gave his disciples: This is how all will know you are my disciples: your love for one another. This, my brethren, is what I wish, with all the love of my poor heart, to give you who are present here with me, to all the others who are now wearing this habit of penance and mourning in memory of the passion and death of our most loving Redeemer, and to all those who, by the mercy of God, shall be called to this little flock of Jesus Christ in times to come.”

For the full text of the Last Testament of Saint Paul of the Cross, click here.

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Mary’s Well

Tomorrow morning I’ll travel to our Monastery at Crossgar, County Down for a “Passionist Religious Life Weekend”, spending a few days with a group of young men who want to look more closely at the Passionist vocation. This is the third in a series of retreats at Tobar Mhuire (which means “Mary’s Well”, called after the ancient holy well in the grounds). This time we will be reading some early texts of Saint Paul of the Cross, particularly the “Preface to the First Rule”, written by Paul when he was 26 years old. I’m hoping for mild weather, but there are some good photographs of the Monastery and grounds in the snow at the Crossgar Women’s Institute site here.

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A Day in the Life of a Disciple

My friend and fellow -Passionist, Father Frank at Mount Argus, made me smile with his reflection on last Sunday’s Gospel (- I’m the one who followed the bus to Motherwell).

” After ordination in 1983 I was assigned to St. Mungo’s Retreat in Glasgow. My primary roles were as Vocations Director and a member of a Mission and Retreat Team. However, along with other members of the community, I also took my turn on Duty and in providing weekend hospital chaplaincy cover to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Being on Duty in St. Mungo’s at that time meant opening the Church at 6.30am, celebrating the early morning Mass, hearing confessions at regular intervals throughout the day, and being available to callers up until 9.00pm, when you would then close up the Monastery for the night…” 

To read the full text, click here.

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“It would seem that Almighty God had chosen Father Paul [Saint Paul of the Cross] to teach people how to seek him in the interior of their own hearts”

(Saint Vincent Mary Strambi, Life of Father Paul of the Cross).

Would Saint Paul of the Cross have been a blogger? He wrote thousands of letters during his lifetime, but could have reached more people with a blog. Would he have been podcasting as well as preaching? I don’t know, but I hope these pages will help me and anyone reading them to seek God in the interior of our own hearts.

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