May 20th.–Instruction XX. The Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin.

May 20th.–Instruction 20. The Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin.


My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

May 20th.–Instruction 20. The Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin.

There stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother, and His Mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”–ST. JOHN xix. 25.

We are fully informed concerning the three years of the public life of Our Lord, but the Gospel is silent concerning the Blessed Virgin during this time; yet when the solemn hour of sacrifice has come we find Mary near her divine Son. The presence of Mary on Calvary, her firm and courageous position at the foot of the cross, sufficiently indicate what have been her sentiments, her thoughts, and her conduct during the several scenes of the passion. Mingling among the multitude of the disciples while Jesus preached His doctrines and spread His blessings, Mary, with the holy women, generously gave her services to aid the cause of her divine Son. And now that the momentous hour had come, could she abandon Him when He was, by His sufferings and death, prepared to consummate the work of redemption? True, indeed, we do not see the tender Mother at the Last Supper, nor in the garden of olives, nor in the tribunal of Caiphas. We do not see her in the pretorium of Pilate, nor at the court of Herod, nor on the way to Calvary. But when we do find her she is standing at the foot of the cross. There can be no doubt but that Mary has followed Jesus all through His sorrowful journey, and that she has shared in all His sufferings.

Let us also follow the Virgin Mother, and reflect on her sorrows. We will consider them in their extent, in their motives, and the teaching they contain for us.

1. In their extent.–Who can measure the extent of Mary’s sorrows during the passion of her divine Son? The words of the Prophet Jeremias (Lam. i. 12) are particularly applicable to her. “O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.” Do you wish to consider the sorrows of Mary in their duration? You will find the duration long, since she has suffered during her whole life. But a few days after the birth of Jesus the holy old man Simeon said to Mary, “Thy own soul a sword shall pierce.” This sword pierced her heart deeper and deeper, day by day, until on Calvary the prophecy was fulfilled. Do you wish to calculate the sorrows of Mary? They are beyond computation. At every step which Jesus took from the garden of Gethsemani, at every word from His bitter enemies, at every instant of the sad drama which passed before her, there was a new pang for the compassionate heart of Mary. Not a word, not a circumstance, escaped her, for she had made the details of the passion the meditation of her whole life. In fine, do you wish to meditate on the intensity of Mary’s sorrows? The extent, or the height, or the depth of that abyss of sorrow cannot be conceived. The prophet compares Mary’s sorrow to a shoreless ocean. The holy fathers declare that the combined torments of the martyrs are not comparable to the sorrows of Mary. Therefore it is that the Church, the interpreter of their sentiments, does not hesitate to salute the Virgin Mother by the glorious title of Queen of martyrs.

2. In their motives.–Is it not surprising that the Blessed Virgin, conceived without slightest stain of sin, raised to the incomparable dignity of Mother of God, more holy and more perfect than all other creatures, yet should suffer such a long and such a painful martyrdom? This destiny is calculated to shock our faith, if we did not know that sufferings and the cross are the inheritance of the purest souls and the dearest friends of God. It is most suitable that Mary should resemble her divine Son in all things. If Jesus is called in Holy Scripture “the Man of sorrows,” because of the unspeakable torments He suffered during His passion, the Blessed Virgin justly merits the title of Mother of sorrows, since she shared in the bitter chalice of her Son. She could not manifest her love for Him in a more perfect manner.

Our blessed Saviour declares in His Gospel, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence.” He Himself did not enter into the possession of His glory till after having suffered poverty, contempt, persecution, outrage, and the ignominious death of the cross. He has wished, also, that even for His own Mother heaven should be the recompense of the sorrows she had endured on earth. Her throne must be higher and more splendid than any other, precisely because her sufferings and humiliations were like to the sufferings of her Son–the Model and King of martyrs. Suffering, therefore, is the proof of our love and the pathway which conducts to life eternal.

3. The lesson which her sorrows teach us.–What salutary lessons the sorrows of Mary teach us! If Mary has suffered because she was the Mother of Jesus, and because she must resemble Him in all things, how can we claim to be His disciples and children of Mary if we refuse to carry the cross as they have carried it? St. Bernard says: “Is it proper for the servant to be crowned with roses when he sees his master crowned with thorns?” Is he a child of Mary, the Mother of sorrows, who lives only a life of pleasure? No; the true disciples of Jesus and Mary are found walking the way which conducts to Calvary, and the greater their love the nearer do they approach the way of the cross.

In fact, it is at the foot of the cross that Mary gives us the example of the sublimest virtues. What unalterable patience! What perfect resignation! What heroic generosity! What love for God! What charity for our neighbor! To her Jesus is dearer far than her own life, yet she does not hesitate to offer Him as a sacrifice for the redemption and salvation of sinners. Therefore, if we wish to give to Mary a proof of our love we should keep her sorrows in loving remembrance; since it is for us that she has suffered. Let us, with Mary, stand at the foot of the cross. This is the place for the just, with St. John; this is the place for sinners, with Magdalene. If we suffer with Jesus and Mary on earth we will merit to reign with them in heaven.


My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.


Of having an humble Sentiment of one’s self.

     III. Be not high minded, but rather acknowledge thy ignorance.
Why wouldst thou prefer thyself to any one, since there are many more learned and skilful in the law than thyself?
If thou wouldst know and learn anything to the purpose, love to be unknown, and esteemed as nothing..–Thomas à Kempis–Imitation of Christ Bk I, Ch II pt III.


May Devotion: The Blessed Virgin Mary

Virtues to practice: Meekness, purity, the spirit of poverty

O holy Mary, my Mistress, into thy blessed trust and special keeping, into the bosom of thy tender mercy, this day, every day of my life and at the hour of my death, I commend my soul and body; to thee I entrust all my hopes and consolations, all my trials and miseries, my life and the end of my life, that through thy most holy intercession and thy merits, all my actions may be ordered and disposed according to thy will and that of thy divine Son. Amen (St. Aloysius Gonzaga)

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins and Mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful; O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

(For either of the above prayers: An indulgence of 3 years.

A plenary indulgence once a month on the usual conditions for the daily recitation of this prayer.)

The faithful who during the month of May take part in public exercises in honor of the B.V.M. may gain: An indulgence of 7 years on any day of the month; a plenary indulgence if they assist at the exercises on at least 10 days, and moreover, go to confession, receive Holy Communion, and pray for the Holy Father’s intentions.

Those who perform their devotions privately during the aforesaid month are granted: an indulgence of 5 years once on any day of the month; a plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if they perform these devotions every day during the month; but where public exercises are held, this indulgence is granted only to those who are lawfully hindered from taking part in the same. (Raccolta).

Our Lady’s Sweet Name

Mary! how sweetly falls that word
On my enraptured ear!
Oft do I breathe in accents low,
That sound when none are near.

Sing O my lips, and loudly proclaim;
O Mary, O Mary, how sweet is thy name.
Sing O my lips, and loudly proclaim;
O Mary, O Mary, how sweet is thy name.

Sweet as the warbling of a bird,
Sweet as a mother’s voice;
So sweet to me is that dear name,
It makes my soul rejoice.

Bright as the glittering stars appear,
Bright as the moonbeams shine,
So bright in my mind’s eye is seen
Thy loveliness divine!

Through thee I offer my requests;
And when my prayer is done,
In ecstasy sublime I see
Thee seated near thy Son.

Thy form before me often comes,
When thou wert but a child,
With heavenly beauty, and with eyes
So serious and mild.

I see thee gathering fragrant flowers
To deck God’s holy place;
And with fond rapture I behold
Thy infancy and grace.

But must I view thee as thou art
Pleading, with earnest prayer,
For those dear wanderers who claim
Thy pity and thy care.

Sweet Lady, wilt thou intercede
For me amongst the rest?
Oh! wilt thou still those passions wild
That reign within my breast?

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