Asperges me, Dómine, hyssópo, et mundábor; lavábis me et super nivem dealbábor.
(Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow.)
It is time. A bell rings, and all in the congregation stand.
The altar servers and the priest walk out into the sanctuary, either from a side entrance or (as is in my church) from behind the altar wall. There is no music, and all are silent. You notice that the priest is not clothed in his vestments, which are lying off to the side on his chair. Instead, he is wearing a cope over his alb and a biretta on his head. Here, he must first seek forgiveness before he can clothe himself in the garb of a priest.
Seeking to be Cleansed
He does not yet climb the altar steps, but, upon removing his biretta, kneels down facing it. The cantor leads the Asperges,taken from the ninth verse of Psalm 51(50), the great lament composed by King David after the prophet Nathan confronted him with his sins against Uriah and his wife Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1-15). Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
The reference to hyssop goes back to Passover, when the Lord commanded Moses to daub the lamb’s blood over the doors of the Israelites (Exodus 12:21-27). The ancient Jews commonly used hyssop for ritual sprinkling with water for purification. (Ironically, the Romans gave a hyssop branch dipped in vinegar to Jesus upon the cross.)
The priest now turns toward the congregation, and, using a container of holy water held by one of the servers, walks down the center aisle blessing the congregation.
Miserére mei, Deus, secúndam magnam misericórdiam tuam.
(Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy great mercy.)
Once back in the sanctuary, the priest leads the congregation in David’s ancient chant to ask for God’s mercy.
Osténde nobis, Domine, misericórdiam tuam
(Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy.)
Et salutáre tuum da nobis.
(And grant us Thy salvation.)
Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam.
(O Lord, hear my prayer.)
Et clamor meus ad te véniat.
(And let my cry come unto Thee.)
Then the priest asks the Lord to be among the congregation, and to “send Thy holy Angel from heaven, to guard, cherish, protect, visit, and defend all that are assembled in this place.”
Going to the Holy Mountain
Next, the priest and the altar servers step to the side of the altar to remove his cope and only now don his stole, cincture, chasuble, and maniple. He does not yet climb the steps of the altar but returns to its base, and longingly looks up at it, using these well-known words:
Priest: Introíbo ad altáre Dei.
(I will go in to the altar of God.)
Server: Ad Deum qui laetificat juventútem meam.
(To God who giveth joy to my youth.)
He is seeking to be worthy to go to the altar—our holy mountain—just as did the author of Psalms 43:
Send your light and your fidelity, that they may be my guide;
Let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place of your dwelling.
That I may come to the altar of God, to God, my joy, my delight.
This happens before the priest steps up to the altar before the Mass begins. It is a beautiful reminder that a contrite heart pleases the Lord and that before we can participate in His holy sacrifice, we must seek His forgiveness and blessing. The priest and we must be cleansed first.
The winners of the recent Pontifical Academies Sacred Architecture Award speak in a thing I shall call The Language of No.
By now, our readers have probably seen pictures of the winners of the gold medal and the silver medal for new church architecture, awarded by the Pontifical Academies. Pope Francis has urged a recovery of symbolic language, but the winners are notable for their speaking in no language: there are, if I may judge by the pictures I have seen, no symbols at all except for the crucifix; and in the gold medal winner, a small chapel in the Tuscan town of Pontedera, the crucifix presents the body of Christ as tiny by comparison with the tree, as if a boy with a taste for cruelty had nailed a salamander to the trunk of an oak.
But perhaps I should revise what I have said. The winners speak in a thing I shall call The Language of No: the essential anti-language of modernist art. I am not condemning that art tout court. No one better portrayed the wreckage of the modern West, and with an aching sense of loss and a hope against hope for restoration and recovery, than did T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land.
I admire, with unease, the half-agnostic and half-eternally seeking poetry of Wallace Stevens. Some modernist architecture is eloquent in its simplicity, such as the Gateway Arch, in St. Louis. The crisp piano progressions in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, mingled with strains of jazz and the bustling energy of American folk song, are like nothing written before—it is a work of genius and might.
And yet, modernism, as a project, to judge it as a whole and in its animating philosophy, is an enemy to man and to human culture. Pope Francis has said, inexplicably, that sacred architecture must be free of cultural influences and human subjectivity; it is the same Francis who has said that the Church must be acculturated for the various peoples she wishes to evangelize. These two statements contradict one another.
But the problem is more severe than the failure of the particular projects to account for the culture of Italy or of the Catholic Church. For modernism, with ways of life it encourages or demands, has gone far to scrub away genuine human culture from the earth. It is not, then, that the winners fail to be Italian or Catholic. It is that they succeed in being anti-Italian and anti-Catholic, not merely avoiding every opportunity to speak the language of the people and of the Church but speaking, shouting, the Language of No, which says that there shall be no symbols, no language, no shared history, no human devotion to what transcends place and time but what is embodied in both place and time: no culture.
If you look at the government buildings in Brasilia, the modernist capital appropriately set in what had been the middle of nowhere, and if you look at the Catholic cathedral there, the thing that looks as if a mad scientist had irradiated a sea anemone and the creature had grown gigantic and was about to crawl on its tentacles to devour Rio de Janeiro, you are not simply looking at what does not say “Brazil” or “Rome.”
I hear the objection: we cannot build baroque churches forever. Strange, that the word baroque has resumed its original sense, as an insult leveled by neo-classical artists against an age that was greater than their own. Yes, the baroque was sometimes characterized by excessive decoration, but in the main it gave us immortal, humanly powerful, and profoundly dramatic art: think of Caravaggio’s “Conversion of St. Paul,” in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome; or Bernini’s “St. Teresa in Ecstasy,” in St. Peter’s; or Bach’s Passion According to St. Matthew. We do not need to speak in baroque. But we do need to speak in human language. And that is what modernism prevents.
Nor was the modernist movement ever necessary. The modernists said that the old forms were exhausted. That was not true. The watercolors of Winslow Homer are not the neo-classical oils of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Rodin’s Thinker is deeply indebted to Michelangelo, but Rodin is not the Florentine—he stakes out his own path. We did not need Alban Berg to reduce music to mathematical skitters; the composers at the end of the nineteenth century were working in a wider variety of genres than had ever existed.
We sneer at the Victorians as if they were stodgy old prudes, but Tennyson, Browning, and Arnold were all embarking on poetic paths in a dizzying array of forms; they were immensely creative, metrically and musically. There had never been anything like Tennyson’s Lotos-eaters, or Browning’s dying bishop ordering his tomb at Saint Praxed’s, while he floats in and out of coherence and bad conscience.
Look at The Triumph of Religion, the series of murals that the stubborn John Singer Sargent painted for the Boston Public Library. Tell me that it was just a matter of slavish imitation of past forms. Sargent had, in fact, taken those forms, learned from them, and turned them to his purpose, so that it is impossible to suppose that the murals were painted in any other time but his own; and yet those same paintings speak in a language that was alive in Greece 2,500 years ago—and alive, also, in the Church since she first began to build on her own.
From 1850-1950, you will find American Christians of all denominations building churches in a broad variety of styles. Sometimes these are baroque, sometimes neo-Gothic, sometimes neo-Romanesque, as in my boyhood church, St. Thomas Aquinas (Archbald, Pennsylvania); sometimes they echo the spare New England meeting house, as in another church my family attended for many years, Sts. Peter and Paul (Phenix, Rhode Island); or they revel in the rich color that characterized late-nineteenth-century tastes in homes and churches, as at St. Anne’s, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island; why, every and any church in the United States could be a small adventure in the arts.
I have often thought that people who believe in suicide for the aged may harbor a visceral terror for the blank, faceless, mechanistic, inhuman hospital ward; death with a frozen smile on the harried nurse’s face as she rushes off to care for someone more interesting than yourself. The sterile glare of the ward says that suicide might be better. It is the only thing it does say. It is also what the architectural medalists say. Shut your mouth and die.
“For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the turtledove is heard in our land.” (Song of Songs 2:11-12)
TO SCATTER FLOWERS – (A poem written by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux in June 28, 1896)
O Jesu! O my Love! Each eve I come to fling Before Thy sacred Cross sweet flowers of all the year. By these plucked petals bright, my hands how gladly bring, I long to dry Thine every tear!
To scatter flowers! – that means each sacrifice, My lightest sighs and pains, my heaviest, saddest hours, My hopes, my joys, my prayers, I will not count the price. Behold my flowers!
With deep, untold delight Thy beauty fills my soul. Would I might light this love in hearts of all who live! For this, my fairest flowers, all things in my control, How fondly, gladly I would give! To scatter flowers! – behold my chosen sword For saving sinners’ souls and filling heaven’s bowers. The victory is mine: yes, I disarm Thee, Lord, With these my flowers!
The petals in their flight caress Thy Holy Face; They tell Thee that my heart is Thine, and Thine alone. Thou knowest what these leaves are saying in my place; On me Thou smilest from Thy throne.
To scatter flowers! – that means, to speak of Thee,– My only pleasure here, where tears fill all the hours; But soon, with angel hosts, my spirit shall be free, To scatter flowers!
PRAYER IN SPRING – (by American poet, Robert Frost, d. 1963)
OH, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day; And give us not to think so far away As the uncertain harvest; keep us here All simply in the spring of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white, Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night; And make us happy in the happy bees, The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird That suddenly above the bees is heard, The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill, And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love, The which it is reserved for God above To sanctify what far ends he will, But which it only needs that we fulfill.
THE VATICAN-UKRAINE ALLIANCE: From Francis to George Soros
In this episode of The Remnant Underground, Michael J. Matt starts off with a look at the latest indicator of full-blown apostacy in Catholic Ireland – a muezzin inside a Catholic church, calling the Irish to Muslim prayer.
The Catholic countries are dropping like flies. Well played, Vatican II!
Not to be outdone, the German bishops are hellbent on schism as well, with the head of the German Bishops’ Conference claiming that God wants sodomites to receive the blessing of the Church.
Meanwhile, Word War III heats up, as Pope Francis’s official newspaper calls on Europeans to give up heating their homes for Lent, since doing so supports “Russia’s war machine.”
Speaking of lunacy, Lindsey Graham and Sean Hannity call on Clueless Joe to start shooting down Russian fighter planes. So apparently our Neocon friends learned nothing from their mistakes in Iraq 20 years ago.
Michael adds “Lucky Lindsey” to the Lunatics of Davos roster, as George Soros comes right out and admits who’s really behind the war in Ukraine.
And finally, Pope Francis’s move to divide the clans – why is he doing it, and will we let him get away with it?
The Church always honours St. Joseph with Mary and Jesus, especially during the Christmas solemnities. This day’s Gospel is indeed that of December 24th. A Coptic calendar tells us that St. Joseph was liturgically honoured in a special way on July 20th, from the eighth century. At the end of the fifteenth century his feast was kept on March 19th and in 1621 Gregory XV extended it to the whole Church. In 1870, Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph protector of the universal Church.This Saint “of the royal race of David” was a just man (Gospel). As by his marriage with the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph has certain rights over the blessed fruit of the virginal womb of his spouse, a moral affinity exists between him and Jesus. He exercised over the Child-God a certain paternal authority, which the Preface of St. Joseph delicately alludes to as that of a foster-father. Without having begotten Jesus, St. Joseph by the bonds which unite him to Mary, is legally and morally the Father of the Son of the Blessed Virgin.
It follows that we must honour by a special homage this dignity or supernatural excellence of St. Joseph. “In the family of Nazareth,” says Cornelius a Lapide, “were the three greatest and most excellent persons in the world. Wherefore to Christ is due the divine worship, to the Virgin a higher worship than to Saints and to St. Joseph the full worship due to Saints.” God revealed to him the mystery of the Incarnation (Ibid.) and “chose him among all ” (Epistle) to commit to his care the Incarnate Word and the Virginity of Mary.
The hymn of Lauds says that: “Christ and the “Virgin were with him at his last hour and watched by him their faces gleaming with sweet serenity.” St. Joseph went to heaven for ever to enjoy the beatific vision of the Word whose humanity he had so long and so closely contemplated on earth. This Saint is therefore justly considered the patron and model of interior and contemplative souls. And in the heavenly home St. Joseph has a powerful influence over the heart of the Son of his most blessed Spouse (Collect).
Let us imitate at this holy season the purity, humility, the spirit of prayer and meditation of Joseph at Nazareth.
Death of Saint Joseph
From the Traditional Latin Mass:
Justus ut palma florebit: sicut cedrus Libani multiplicabitur: plantatus in domo Domini: in atriis domus Dei nostri. * Bonum est confiteri Domino: et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime. The just shall flourish like the palm-tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus: planted in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God. (Psalm 91:13-14,2 from the Introit of Mass)
Sanctissimae Genitricis tuae Sponsi, quaesumus, Domine, meritis adjuvemur: ut, quod possibilitas nostra non obtinet, ejus nobis intercessione donetur. We beseech Thee, O Lord, that we maybe helped by the merits of the Spouse of Thy most holy Mother, so that what we cannot obtain of ourselves, may be given to us through his intercession. (Collect)
Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew. Now the generation of Christ was in this wise. When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins. (St Matthew 1:18-21)
The LORD said to Samuel: “How long will you grieve for Saul, whom I have rejected as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.” As they came, he looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is here before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any one of these.” Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.” Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The LORD said, “There-anoint him, for this is he!” Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David. When Samuel took his leave, he went to Ramah.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths for His names’s sake. for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff
that give me courage. You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.
Letter to the Ephesians5,8-14.
Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John9,1-41.
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see. His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “(So) how were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.” They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” (But) others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for him self.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Messiah, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.” So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out. When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
Ten years ago today, on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 13, 2013, the 115 cardinal-electors of the Catholic Church walked up one after the other to a table in the Sistine Chapel to deposit folded ballot papers, only an inch wide, in a silver urn. Each bore the name of the cardinal they wanted to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who had stunned them by his resignation just over a month earlier. It was an anonymous vote, of course, but just to make sure, the cardinals had been instructed to disguise their handwriting.
It was the fifth ballot since Tuesday night, and they knew it would be the last. After that first vote, there was a ripple of surprise when the bookies’ favourite, the scholarly but energetic Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, received 30 votes instead of the anticipated 40. The runner-up, with 26 votes, was the cardinal who came second to Joseph Ratzinger in 2005, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.
Most commentators had written off Bergoglio because he was 76. But, of all the candidates, he seemed the most determined to clear out the filth in the Vatican. The year before, Benedict XVI’s butler had leaked documents revealing the industrial-scale blackmailing of senior clerics with an appetite for gay sex parties and money-laundering. The old pope was not personally implicated, but he clearly didn’t have a clue what to do about it. When he announced that, at 85, he no longer had the strength to do the job, few cardinals doubted that the so-called “Vatileaks” were to blame. Likewise, no one doubted that Bergoglio — who had been a nightclub bouncer before becoming a Jesuit priest — was looking forward to knocking heads together.
On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the horse-trading began, carried out sotto voce during meal breaks and rest periods in the Domus Sancta Marthae, a cross between a five-star hotel and a prison where the cardinals are incarcerated between ballots. By the fourth ballot, the Argentinian Jesuit was unstoppable. The fifth ballot was merely an opportunity for as many cardinals as possible to vote for the winner.
When it was over, 90 out of 115 had backed Bergoglio. The white smoke billowed forth and the bells of St Peter’s rang out to confirm the election (a recent innovation, just in case the accident-prone Vatican sends out black smoke by mistake). The new pope, who had chosen the name Francis after the medieval saint who embraced extreme poverty, walked on to the balcony of St Peter’s minus the traditional gorgeously embroidered stole. His disarming manner sent the crowd into an ecstasy of cheering. The next morning, Francis turned up at the counter of the Domus to pay his bill in person. He rang his newsagent in Buenos Aires to tell him to stop delivering the papers. The media were charmed by these faux-humble stunts.
And so began one of the darkest decades in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church. The cardinals had been taken for a ride. They had elected a man about whom they knew little: a divisive and intellectually lazy clerical politician.
But that is not the worst of it. The truth — unforgivably obscured by a mainstream media that relies on papal allies for “commentary” on Vatican affairs — is that Francis himself, both before and after his election, has empowered and protected predatory clergy and their accomplices.
No one paid any attention at the time, but one of the cardinals who joined the “humble” new pope on the balcony 10 years ago was the late Godfried Danneels, former Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels. In 2010, shortly after the very liberal Danneels retired, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges admitted to his former boss that he had been sexually abusing his own nephew. Cardinal Danneels met the victim and, unaware that he was being recorded, told him to shut up about the abuse until the revelation would cause less embarrassment. Police questioned Daneels about the attempted cover-up and raided his offices. The recording was made public and Danneels — who once nurtured ambitions to become pope — was torn to pieces by a Belgian media that had once admired him.
So what was he doing on the balcony with Francis? And why, in 2015, did the Pope invite Danneels, guilty of trying to cover up incestuous abuse of a minor, to a Vatican Synod on the family, of all subjects? I asked the late Cardinal George Pell, who at the time was in charge of reforming Vatican finances. “To thank him for the votes,” replied Pell. Danneels was a member of the so-called St Gallen Mafia of elderly liberal cardinals who lobbied for Bergoglio in 2005 and 20213. In Pell’s mind, at least, rehabilitation was his reward.
Consider, also, the case of Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington, who twisted arms for Bergoglio. It was an open secret in Rome and the US Bishops’ Conference that “Uncle Ted” loved to seduce seminarians. When Benedict XVI discovered this, he banished him to a life of prayer and repentance. As soon as Francis was elected, McCarrick found himself back in favour, travelling around the world as the Pope’s unofficial emissary and fundraiser. Eventually the New York Times revealed that McCarrick was being accused of child abuse, at which point Francis had no choice but to strip him of his title of cardinal. But it should have happened years earlier given that, on becoming Pope, Francis was told that the Vatican had a thick file on McCarrick’s sexual activities.
One of Francis’s first acts as pope was to make his friend Fr Gustavo Zanchetta the Bishop of Orán in northern Argentina despite claims that he was corrupt. In 2017, aged only 53, Zanchetta resigned for “health reasons”. In fact, he had been reported by the Vatican nunciature in Buenos Aires for alleged abuse; in 2015, graphic gay sex images of himself and “young people” had been found on his phone and were reportedly shown to the Pope. (Zanchetta claimed they had been planted.) There were extensive allegations of misuse of funds that led to a raid on his former office by Orán police.
And what did Francis do after Zanchetta resigned? He created a special job for him in the Vatican “assessing” the assets of the Holy See. He would probably still have it if, in 2022, he hadn’t been sentenced to four and half years in jail in Argentina for the sexual assault of two seminarians while Bishop of Orán.
A pattern emerges. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio commissioned a report attempting to exonerate Fr Julio Grassi, who was jailed for molesting residents of his Happy Children homes for street children. As Pope, Francis denied on camera that he sponsored the £1 million secret document. Unfortunately, it bears his name. Fortunately for him, no major English-language media outlet has devoted significant resources to investigating his record of protecting abusers. An ordinary bishop who did these things would almost certainly be made to resign. But no one can be forced to resign the Holy See; indeed, any forced resignation of a pope is automatically invalid.
A succession of disgraceful episodes raise the question of whether Bergoglio should have been allowed to become a small-town priest, let alone spiritual leader of more than a billion people.
In 2018, the Vatican signed a deal with Beijing that handed President Xi Jinping the power to appoint official Catholic bishops. As a result, faithful Catholics are being herded into so-called “Masses” in which the worship of the Chinese Communist Party takes precedence over the worship of God. Lord Alton of Liverpool, the Catholic human rights campaigner, has described the pact on Twitter as “at best naïve and at worst a gross betrayal”. Cardinal Joseph Zen, former Bishop of Hong Kong, was so appalled that, in 2020, he travelled to Rome to appeal to the Pope to appoint a bishop in Hong Kong who would resist China’s illegal attempts to force its fake Catholicism on the province. The 88-year-old Zen asked for just half an hour with the Pope. Francis refused to see him. Moreover, he has never condemned his Chinese allies’ genocidal campaign against the Muslim Uyghurs, which includes forcing their women to have abortions.
In the United States, meanwhile, Francis seems to have a policy of insulting orthodox Catholics by only awarding cardinal’s hats to bishops with divisive liberal views. Last year, for instance, he made Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego a cardinal, yet again refusing to honour Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, a theologically conservative but politically neutral figure who had the temerity to draw attention to Joe Biden’s fanatical support for abortion on the day of his inauguration.
McElroy’s elevation to the college of cardinals was especially provocative. In 2018, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington was forced to resign when his clergy refused to believe his claim that he knew nothing about the sexual activities of his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick. Francis planned to replace Wuerl with McElroy, who was also a McCarrick protege — but such a move would have provoked open revolt in Washington. Hence the huge and unprecedented consolation prize of a red hat for the Bishop of San Diego, which has enabled McElroy to join Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, and Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, in the club of Francis-appointed cardinals who were once close to McCarrick.
Curiously, although McCarrick had once been a notoriously predatory Archbishop of Newark, his successor Cardinal Tobin said he didn’t believe any of the stories about him — until the truth emerged. Cardinal Farrell was McCarrick’s auxiliary in Washington, shared an apartment with him, but never suspected a thing. The future Cardinal McElroy, meanwhile, was informed by the late clerical abuse expert Richard Sipe in 2016 that McCarrick was a serial abuser. He took no action. And, to spell it out, these three cardinals — Farrell, Tobin and McElroy — are crucial allies of Francis “the Reformer”.
There is a chance, however, that Francis will regret the elevation of Bob McElroy. The Pope’s biggest headache at the moment is his pet project, absurdly entitled the Synod on Synodality, that Francis intended to push the Church surreptitiously in a liberal direction. What has happened instead is that the ultra-liberal German Church has gone full Protestant on Francis, using what it calls the “Synodal Way” to turn itself into a version of the Church of England. Last week, it voted to allow gay blessings in church.
Meanwhile, McElroy has taken a huge risk, calling for a “radical inclusion” of LGBT couples that would enable them to receive Holy Communion, a move that Francis does not support. This provoked Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, to accuse America’s most recent cardinal of heresy. Even the Pope’s most fervent supporters are worried. If the Catholic Church in the United States, Germany and other liberal European countries falls apart in the chaotic manner of the now-defunct Anglican Communion, then history will blame Pope Francis — not necessarily for sowing the seeds of secularisation, but for his theologically incoherent thrashing about in the throne of Peter.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Latin Mass. Francis’s suppression of this ancient liturgy is losing him friends even among liberal bishops, who now find themselves forced to carry out witch-hunts on behalf of the Pope’s thuggish liturgy chief, Arthur Roche, another wildly unsuitable recipient of a red hat.
Let me leave you with this disgusting paradox. Earlier this month, the Pope’s Jesuit friend Fr Mark Rupnik, a celebrity mosaic artist, was allowed to concelebrate Mass publicly. Meanwhile, claims that he grotesquely abused women have not been fully investigated because Francis refuses to lift the relevant statute of limitations.
At the same time, faithful priests have been expelled from churches where they offered the traditional Mass and now are forced to do so in church halls and basements. They represent the only community of Catholics that is growing in the 21st century, and the Pope is literally driving them underground.
Ten years after that catastrophic vote in the Sistine Chapel, we have reached a moment of extreme crisis in the life of the Church. Francis is tightening his control of the Vatican’s machinery, with no plans to retire. A new pope would have been nice – a couple of years ago. Now I think it’s too late. The church may never recover its moral authority.
And now, my brethren, what was it (Jesus) had to bear, when He thus opened upon His soul the torrent of this predestinated pain? Alas! He had to bear what is well known to us, what is familiar to us, but what to Him was woe unutterable. He had to bear that which is so easy a thing to us, so natural, so welcome, that we cannot conceive of it as a great endurance, but which to Him had the scent and the poison of death. He had, my dear brethren, to bear the weight of sin; He had to bear our sins; He had to bear the sins of the whole world.
Sin is an easy thing to us; we think little of it; we cannot bring our imagination to believe that it deserves retribution, and, when even in this world punishments follow upon it, we explain them away or turn our minds from them. But consider what sin is in itself; it is rebellion against God; it is a traitor’s act who aims at the overthrow and death of his sovereign: it is that, if I may use a strong expression, which, could the Divine Governor of the world cease to be, would be sufficient to bring it about. Sin is the mortal enemy of the All-holy, so that He and it cannot be together; and as the All-holy drives it from His presence into the outer darkness; so, if God could be less than God, it is sin that would have power to make Him less.
And here observe, my brethren, that when once Almighty God, by taking flesh, entered this created system, and submitted Himself to its laws, then forthwith this antagonist of good and truth, taking advantage of the opportunity, flew at that flesh which He had taken, and fixed on it, and was its death. The envy of the Pharisees, the treachery of Judas, and the madness of the people, were but the instrument or the expression of the enmity which sin felt towards Eternal Purity as soon as, in infinite mercy towards men, He put Himself within its reach.
Sin could not touch His Divine Majesty; but it could assail Him in that way in which He allowed Himself to be assailed, that is, through the medium of His humanity. And in the issue, in the death of God incarnate, you are but taught, my brethren, what sin is in itself, and what it was which then was falling, in its hour and in its strength, upon His human nature, when He allowed that nature to be so filled with horror and dismay at the very anticipation.
There, then, in that most awful hour, knelt the Savior of the world, putting off the defenses of His. divinity, dismissing His reluctant Angels, who in myriads were ready at His call, and opening His arms, baring His breast, sinless as He was, to the assault of His foe — of a foe whose breath was a pestilence and whose embrace was an agony. There He knelt, motionless and still, while the vile and horrible fiend clad His spirit in a robe steeped in all that is hateful and heinous in human crime, which clung close round His heart, and filled His conscience, and found its way into every sense and pore of His mind, and spread over Him a moral leprosy, till He almost felt Himself to be that which He never could be, and which His foe would fain have made Him.
Oh, the horror, when He looked, and did not know Himself, and felt as a foul and loathsome sinner, from His vivid perception of that mass of corruption which poured over His head and ran down even to the skirts of His garments! Oh, the distraction, when He found His eyes, and feet, and lips, and heart, as if the members of the Evil One, and not of God!
Are these the hands of the Immaculate Lamb of God, once innocent, but now red with ten thousand barbarous deeds of blood? Are these His lips, not uttering prayer, and praise, and holy blessings, but as if defiled with oaths, and blasphemies, and doctrines of devils? Or His eyes, profaned as they are by all the evil visions and idolatrous fascinations for which men have abandoned their adorable Creator?
And His ears, they ring with sounds of revelry and strife; and His heart is frozen with avarice, and cruelty, and unbelief; and His very memory is laden with every sin which has been committed since the fall, in all the regions of the earth, with the pride of the old giants, and the lusts of the five cities, and the obduracy of Egypt, and the ambition of Babel, and the unthankfulness and scorn of Israel.
Oh, who does not know the misery of a haunting thought which comes again and again, in spite of rejection, to annoy, if it cannot seduce? Or of some odious and sickening imagination, in no sense one’s own, but forced upon the mind from without? Or of evil knowledge, gained with or without a man’s fault; but which he would give a great price to be rid of at once and for ever?
And adversaries such as these gather around Thee, Blessed Lord, in millions now; they come in troops more numerous than the locust or the palmer-worm, or the plagues of hail, and flies, and frogs, which were sent against Pharaoh. Of the living and of the dead and of the as yet unborn, of the lost and of the saved, of Thy people and of strangers, of sinners and of saints, all sins are there. Thy dearest are there, Thy saints and Thy chosen are upon Thee; Thy three apostles, Peter and James, and John, but not as comforters, but as accusers, like the friends of Job, “sprinkling dust towards heaven”, and heaping curses on Thy head.
All are there but one, one only is not there, one only; for she who had no part in sin, she only could console Thee, and therefore she is not nigh. She will be near Thee on the Cross, she is separated from Thee in the Garden. She has been Thy companion and Thy confidant through Thy life, she interchanged with Thee the pure thoughts and holy meditations of thirty years; but her virgin ear may not take in, nor may her immaculate heart conceive, what now is in vision before Thee.
None was equal to the weight but God; sometimes before Thy saints Thou hast brought the image of a single sin, as it appears in the light of Thy countenance, or of venial sins, not mortal; and they have told us that the sight did all but kill them, nay, would have killed them, had it not been instantly withdrawn. The Mother of God, for all her sanctity, nay, by reason of it, could not have borne even one brood of that innumerable progeny of Satan which now compass Thee about. It is the long history of a world, and God alone can bear the load of it.
Hopes blighted, vows broken, lights quenched, warnings scorned, opportunities lost, the innocent betrayed, the young hardened, the penitent relapsing, the just overcome, the aged failing; the sophistry of misbelief, the willfulness of passion, the obduracy of pride, the tyranny of habit, the canker of remorse, the wasting fever of care, the anguish of shame, the pining of disappointment, the sickness of despair, such cruel, such pitiable spectacles, such heart-rending, revolting, detestable, maddening scenes; nay, the haggard faces, the convulsed lips, the flushed cheek, the hard brow of the willing slaves of evil, they are all before Him now; they are upon Him and in Him.
They are with Him instead of that ineffable peace which has inhabited His soul since the moment of His conception. They are upon Him, they are all but His own; He cries to His Father as if He were the criminal, not the victim; His agony takes the form of guilt and compunction. He is doing penance, He is making confession, He is exercising contrition, with a reality and a virtue infinitely greater than that of all saints and penitents together; for He is the One Victim for us all, the sole Satisfaction, the real Penitent, all but the real sinner.
Exactly ten years ago this morning to the very hour (given the time difference), I was working on an article about the 2013 conclave for this site in the lobby of the Atlante Star Hotel in Rome. So, I remember the exact moment when the big flat-screen television there showed the white smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel – and the hotel staff began shouting, “É l’americano!” They were wrong. It wasn’t – as they expected – NY’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose large personality had been making a big impression in Italian media.
People began running to St. Peter’s Square. Me included. I wanted to see with my own eyes a rare event like that before going to the rooftop studio to do my duty as part of the EWTN “Conclave Crew” (precursor to the Papal Posse). St. Peter’s is one of the largest squares in Europe, but it filled up almost instantly. It was raining and noisy and almost impossible to see the loggia of the basilica through the forest of cell phones and iPads people held up as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, stepped out.
The choice of a pope is always a surprise, almost a mystery, but this one was especially so since no one expected it to be him. He immediately set a personal tone. John Paul II had famously proclaimed, “Be not afraid!” Benedict XVI, a less demonstrative man, said plainly, “Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.” Francis’s first words were, “Buona sera.” In the moment, a charming casualness. Despite many later reports of a fiery Latin temper, it’s remained clear that Papa Bergoglio has a remarkable ability, when he wants, to turn on the charm.
People began to speak of “the Francis Effect,” the hope that a less “judgmental” and more welcoming Church would attract outsiders and reignite evangelical fervor. I myself, before the conclave even started, was thinking that maybe we needed a pastoral not a teaching pope who would implement the great intellectual and social legacies of JPII and Benedict everywhere in the Church, all the way down to the parish level. And for a brief moment, it seemed that was what we got.
At least, that was the image that Francis maintained in the media over those first days. But it was precisely among the media, thousands of whom he invited to a special gathering a few days after his election, that other traits began to appear. He praised the journalists present for recognizing that the election was a spiritual, not merely a political, process. At EWTN, we recognized that, but almost all the other “journalists” were only interested in abortion, gays, women priests. Still, a clever opening gambit that, for the moment, charmed a group in large part hostile to the Church.
Then, things took an ominous turn. Explaining – in Spanish now at the journalists’ gathering – that he knew that many in the crowd were not believers, he said he would not give his apostolic blessing outwardly, but would only say it silently. He inclined his head for a few moments then walked off the stage.
I wanted to think at the time that this might be a shrewd evangelizing strategy that might produce good effects. But after a grace period of several months, during which it became increasingly difficult to figure out exactly what Francis was up to, it became clear that the press – and the world – took his gestures another way: as a sign that this new pontiff would be a non-combatant in the “culture war.”
Indeed, he early on rebuked – no missing the hostility – those Catholics he categorized as “insisting” and “obsessing” about abortion, gays, and all the other usual points of conflict, as posing a threat to the Church. He emphasized the need for mercy not only as a theological but a practical matter: “Otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards.”
This odd judgment did not go down well, to say the least, with fervent Catholics who had sacrificed to defend children in the womb and marriage – and who have succeeded on several fronts over the past decade, without noticeable harm to the Church.
And ever since, a confusing ambiguity has been the modus operandi. For example, Francis has said multiple times that abortion is “like hiring a hitman to solve a problem.” He has excommunicated actual hit men in Southern Italy, but when it’s a matter of the worldwide slaughter of the innocents – more than 60 million year after year – he has done little.
The same with LGBT questions. Just three days ago, in an interview with the Argentinian publication La Nación, he rightly said: “Gender ideology, today, is one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations. . . .Why is it dangerous? Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women.”
Quite so, and if we have ideological hit men and ideological gender colonizers running loose in large numbers, primarily in the developed world, and seeking to extend their dominance everywhere via international institutions, “mercy” – if it’s to be effective in protecting the innocent, and not mere talk – ought to be driving the Church to do something concrete to stop them. Maybe even obsessing a little.
One of the sour fruits of the excessive emphasis on mercy is quite evident in the way “Synodality” is developing in the Church. There’s a definite connection between a desire to be merciful – to favored sinners – and, say, the German bishops’ Synodale Weg, which is ready to celebrate several things that the Church has always declared sins. And the German synod is only the most open instance of what is very likely to happen with the worldwide Synods this October and October 2024.
Mercy was also quite present in the papacies of John Paul II (see his Dives in Misericordiai.e., “Rich in Mercy”) and of Benedict XVI (“Mercy is in reality the core of the Gospel message; it is the name of God Himself, the face with which He reveals Himself in the Old Testament and fully in Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of creative and redemptive love.’). But in the past ten years, it has morphed into something else: “inclusion” and “openness,” in the current secular not their authentic Christian meanings – contrary to historic Christianity.
So, after ten years, what has been “the Francis effect”? In the plus column, there’s been a modest reform of Vatican finances, but also a financial crisis that may reflect continuing lay worries about where money is going. And there are some improvements in dealing with sexual abuse, though the special treatment given the pope’s friends – even the Satanic Marko Rupnik – has made the effort seem somewhat short of serious.
It’s painful for a Catholic to have to say it, but needs saying out of fidelity to the truth: the Francis Effect has resulted in a Church that has not, as hoped, attracted people from outside and has left those within even more confused and divided.
*Photo: Nacho Arteaga/Unsplash [via University of Birmingham]
In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, «Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?» So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!” The LORD answered Moses, “Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.” This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel. The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, Where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works.”
Letter to the Romans5,1-2.5-8.
Brothers and sisters: Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access (by faith) to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John4,5-42.
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (The woman) said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah? They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
CP&S comment : Immaculée Ilibagiza, the renowned Catholic author and speaker from Rwanda of the Tutsi tribe, who spent 91 days with seven other women hidden in a 3 x 4 foot bathroom at the terrible time of the Rwandan genocide, sends us this wonderful message for Lent: “Pray the 7 Sorrows Rosary and you will receive abundant favours and graces!”Immaculée lost nearly all her family and many friends who were butchered by members of the Hutu tribe during the genocide, yet still managed to forgive the aggressors through her constant prayer and trust in God.
I have seen many miracles happening through the 7 Sorrows Rosary devotion, and I can’t think of a better time to say it and benefit from all the many graces Mary promised to St. Bridget and Marie Claire of Kibeho, than this time of LENT.
With all the graces being given at this time, please if you have any problem, cry to Our Lady, think of Her pain through the Seven Sorrows Rosary and your own pain will heal. Some of those miracles I see often, are people who prayed to be pregnant after trying for a long time or who were told it was impossible. I have heard many healing from cancer, for addictions, and I have heard many conversions through this rosary and many more. I encourage you to say it, for our own good, especially now during LENT. Honor Our Lady, console Her, she will console you.
She PROMISED: – I will grant peace to their families. – They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries. – I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work. – I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls. – I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives. – I will visibly help them at the moment of their death, they will see the face of their Mother. – I have obtained from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy. THE SEVEN SORROWS 1. The prophecy of Simeon: “And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” – Luke II, 34-35. 2. The flight into Egypt: “And after they (the wise men) were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise and take the child and His mother and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy Him. Who arose and took the child and His mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and He was there until the death of Herod.” – Matt. II, 13-14. 3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple: “And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and His parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day’s journey, and sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And not finding Him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking Him.” Luke II, 43-45. 4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross: “And there followed Him a great multitude of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him.” – Luke XXIII, 27. 5. The Crucifixion: “They crucified Him. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His Mother. When Jesus therefore had seen His Mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, He saith to His Mother: Woman: behold thy son. After that he saith to the disciple: Behold thy Mother.” – John XIX, l8-25-27. 6. The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross: “Joseph of Arimathea, a noble counselor, came and went in boldly to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And Joseph buying fine linen, and taking Him down, wrapped Him up in the fine linen.” – Mark XV, 43-46. 7. The burial of Jesus: “Now there was in the place where He was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein no man yet had been laid. There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulcher was nigh at hand.” John XIX, 41-42″
The Stations as we know them were born of tradition nearly as old as the Church. Who do we thank for this beautiful devotion? An Apostle? Or a saint?
Actually, we owe our thanks to the Blessed Mother. According to an ancient tradition, it was she who made the first Way of the Cross. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, one of the Church’s modern mystics and visionaries, relates to us some of the details, as they were revealed to her, of how this devotion came about.
After the Ascension, Our Lady immersed herself in the contemplation and remembrance of the Passion. Blessed Anne tells us that she went out daily and traced the route of the Cross through Jerusalem.
The Blessed Mother, relates Bl. Anne, was grave and shed “tears of compassion” as she walked the Way.
When the Blessed Mother moved from Jerusalem to Ephesus, she quickly marked a space for replicating the Way. Blessed Anne Catherine describes the new Way, saying:
Soon after her arrival at her new home [in Ephesus] I saw her every day climbing part of the way up the hill behind her house to carry out this devotion. At first she went by herself, measuring the number of steps, so often counted by her, which separated the places of Our Lord’s different sufferings. At each of these places she put up a stone, or, if there was already a tree there, she made a mark upon it. The way led into a wood, and upon a hill in this wood she had marked the place of Calvary, and the grave of Christ in a little cave in another hill.
Bl. Anne goes on to explain that at first, the Blessed Mother made this Way alone. Later, she brought her maidservant with her to meditate on the Passion and praise Our Lord for it. After her Assumption, the site became well-known by Christians. They made access to the Way easier, beautifying it with both material and spiritual attentions.
Our Lady, in making the first Way, gave us a tremendous gift. The Stations of the Cross that are erected in every Catholic Church, and which are traditionally prayed by Christians on Fridays—especially during Lent—are a spiritual heritage given to us directly from Our Blessed Mother!
This Lent, consider joining Our Blessed Mother in her daily contemplation of the Passion.
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