Alsace, Haut-Rhin, Colmar, Musée d’UnterLinden : la descente de Croix, les larmes de Marie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today, the feast of Our Lady of Dolors, is our province feast day.
The North American Province of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, Our Lady of Dolors Province, was erected by the General Council in 1950, twenty-six years after the first Passionist Sisters arrived in the United States. They elected Sister Pascal Grogan, C.P. as the first Provincial.
The late Sister Kathleen Mary Burke, C.P. recalled in her tape-recorded memoirs that the erection of the North American Province was unexpected by the sisters in North America. On the day the document arrived the sisters at the Assumption were enjoying a day out. (This meant that they took their meals out of the refectory and so did not have to keep silence while they ate.) At the end of the evening meal, Sister Pascal who was the local superior stood up and began to read the decree. Part of the way through she began to cry. Unable to continue she passed the document to Sister Arcadius who read as much as she could of it before she broke down and had to pass it on to the next person. By the end everyone was crying.” Why tears? The road to this moment had been long and hard. There hadn’t been in Sister Concepta’s words much “sunshine on Calvary.” Naming Our Lady of Dolors as the patron of our province was an appropriate choice.
Devotion to our Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Dolors has a long history in the Church and within the Passionist Community. St. Paul of the Cross wrote:
“My heart breaks when I think of the sorrows of the most holy Virgin. Oh tender Mother, unutterable was Thy grief in finding Thyself deprived of your dear Son, and then in beholding Him dead in Thy arms! Ah! who can realize the sadness of Mary when She returned to Bethany after the burial of her Son? Jesus expires on the cross! He is dead that we may have life. All creation mourns: the sun darkens, the earth trembles, the rocks burst, and the veil of the temple is rent in twain; my heart alone remains harder than a rock!
All I say to you now is, console the poor Mother of Jesus. It is a miracle that She does not die; She is absorbed in the sufferings of Jesus. Imitate Her, and ask the Magdalen and the beloved disciple St. John what are their sentiments.”
This feast day was originated by a provincial synod of Cologne in 1423. It was designated for the Friday after the third Sunday after Easter. Before the 16th century, the feast was celebrated only in parts of northern Europe. Over the centuries several devotions, and even orders, arose around meditation on Mary’s Sorrows in particular. In 1913, Pope Pius X moved the feast to September 15, the day after the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, another day of celebration for Passionists.
The Chaplet of the Seven Dolors is a traditional devotion of our community. The chapel windows at our retreat center, Our Lady of Calvary, depict the seven sorrows of Mary. Meditation on these sorrows not only unite us more closely with our Blessed Mother but also connect us with and fill us with compassion for our contemporaries, especially women, who suffer as she did.
O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace.