Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mater Dolorosa

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The following is from Listen, Mother of God! Reflections on the Litany of Loreto by Msgr. Charles Dollen.

Comforter of the Afflicted
Granting the human condition...we live in a 'vale of tears'...

As the virtue of penance, with its fasting and self-denial, loses popularity, the indulgence of human nature leads to less and less happiness. If we cannot learn to say 'No' to ourselves in things we can have, how can we say 'No' to ourselves in things we cannot have?

...we live amid afflictions and troubles, and we turn to Mary, the Comforter of the Afflicted, for her powerful maternal help. She can be sympathetic since she knows what the human condition is. She has experienced it. St. Alphonsus Liguori gives a whole section in The Glories of Mary to the 'Dolors of Mary.' Her seven sorrows have prepared her, by experience, to be ready to help us in our time of sorrow.

Perhaps the most beautiful treatment of Mary's own sorrows is in the sequence Stabat Matter. This moving poem is attributed to the thirteenth-century Franciscan Jacopone da Todi...

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has pierced.

Now Mary was a faithful witness, a participant, 'all His bitter anguish sharing.' Her Immaculate Heart was purified through her will to unite herself to the bitter agonies of His Sacred Heart.

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child
All with bloody scourges rent;
For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation
Till His Spirit forth He sent.

The scourging at the pillar was torture so severe that Christ usually referred to 'the scourging and crucifixion' together. The only pain He had suffered previously was at the Circumcision. Now He seemed to dread the scourging with particular concern. Mary's witness to t his, in the broken, bloody, bruised body on the cross, was n excruciating element of her own suffering.

The Church applies to her the words at the beginning of the Lamentations, 'O ll you who have pass by the way, look an see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow!' Beyond any doubt, Mary learned to comfort others by what she suffered.

That is what St. Ephrem means when he titles h er the comfort of the world, the mother of orphans, the liberator of prisoners, and the redeemer of captives...'

The miseries that afflict us are troubles in body, mind, and soul. Blessed Henry Suso calls Mary 'the most faithful comfortress of sinners.' St. Alphonsus Liguori adds, 'We need only show Mary the wounds of our souls and she immediately helps us by her prayers, and consoles us.'

Variations of this title are 'Our Lady of Pity,' 'Our Lady of the Forsaken,' and 'Our Lady of Mercy...'

"Mary...has a very tender love for the Souls in Purgatory. The 'Great Promise' of the Brown (Carmelite) Scapular is that on the Saturday follo9wing the death of a person wearing this emblem, she will come and release them from Purgatory if they are there.

St. Bernaardine of Siena says that 'in that prison (Purgatory), where souls that are espouses to Jesus Christ are detained, Mary has a certain dominion and plenitude of power, not only to relieve them, but even to deliver them'

'How courteous and benign,' says St. Vincent Ferrer, 'is the most Blessed Virgin to those who suffer in Purgatory! Through her they constantly receive comfort and refreshment.'

Many of the saints looked at the great feasts of the Blessed Mother as a special time of grace for the souls in Purgatory. What greater tribute to her than that she would lead countless souls to her Son's court to celebrate her triumphs....

If she does not remove the affliction, she obtains for us the grace to bear it patiently and with spiritual profit. That may be an even better answer, that we learn conformity to the will of God and the virtue of patience...

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