Lenten Prayer – with Mary

When I was discerning religious life, I had no intention of entering with the Canossian Sisters.

I know, I hear my friends saying, “Er…but Sr Lisa Marie, isn’t that the religious order you are with?”

Yes. I am a Canossian Sister, and have found my home in this beautiful Canossian religious family. How is it that I am here was settled by one prayer that our Sisters around the world pray each morning, asking for the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows:

Father, you willed that Mary
be at the Foot of the Cross
sharing in the sacrifice of your Son.
Grant, that
through her intercession,
we may bear within ourselves
the image of Christ
Crucified and Risen,
and spend ourselves
with untiring charity
for the good
of our brothers and sisters,
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

I remember the first time I heard the Sisters pray these words, I knew.

It was as though, like the Baptist to his disciples, ‘Look, the Lamb of God.’ And when they heard this, they followed Jesus (John 1:36-37).

When I heard the words “image of Christ Crucified” and “spend ourselves with untiring charity”, I intuitively knew I found my spiritual home.

During this Lenten season, it is a time to follow the Lord towards Jerusalem. We can imagine his knowing each footstep carried him closer to future he didn’t want, yet, he walked on the same out of love for the Father and for us, for the ‘good of his brothers and sisters’.

This is my Lenten journey. This is the Canossian way of life. This is my Christian way of life. May I walk it in love for the Father each day ‘with untiring charity for the good of our brothers and sisters’. May others be inspired desire to follow this way of service to the Father, through the contemplation of the Greatest Love on the Cross, with Mary at their side. Amen.

Mother of Charity at the Foot of the Cross

The day was darkened, clouds moved in.
Or was the shadow that
of poignant grief?
A mother stands resolute,
Watching her equally determined Son, his agony.

“Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”
Hearing her Son’s words,
Her trembling heart,
in faith,
echoes this prayer too.

How many wounds entered her heart that day?
The agony of a mother’s grief bound
to a mystery woven through?

Life—Suffering—Death.

In the end, giving His Spirit back to God,
He breathed his last.
And she, cradles Him one last time.

O woman of faith!
The Light of the World rests in your arms.
Silence enfolds you pondering,
Your offering Him back to God.


“Mary’s love was unrelenting as she shared in the sufferings of Jesus, to the extent of agonizing sorrow, bravely, at the foot of the Cross. We ought to be strong and patient in the same way by imitating her, even at the cost of our lives.”

St. Magdalene of Canossa, Foundress
Canossian Daughters and Sons of Charity

We, Canossian Sisters, extend our greetings and prayers also to you; may our Lady of Sorrows, at the Foot of the Cross intercede for you in a special way.

Mater Charitatis, Ora Pro Nobis!

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows
September 15th

Choices: Its Not About Us

One of my encounters with a teenager who had gotten himself into some serious trouble, led to a serious discussion about the choices we make from day to day and how they impact our tomorrow. I shared with him, that although he can’t take back what he’s done, his choice does not have to define him and his future. He can accept the bad choice and its consequences and use the rest of his life to do good. History has shown us heroes whose character had been defined through the pattern of choices they made, and how they lived up to their mistakes and worked to live good and virtuous lives. And in the process, maybe do something that changes – or saves – the life of another:

The video does a good job of telling a story in three minutes. The boy has to make a decision to either help the girl live, or let her perish. Because he helps her escape, he is reprimanded harshly. He could have chosen differently and received reward, but to what end? To whose sacrifice?

This month of September has two important feasts dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. On the 8th, we remember the Birth of Mary; and on the 15th, we commemorate her under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows. In the example of her life, she was willing to make a choice that changed her life forever; and in her offering of her life to God in this way, she became an instrument that changed our lives too.

What choices do we make? Whose lives are made better because of them? Can we, like Mary, put ourselves aside and realize its not about us?

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

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Artwork by Tahnjah

Three Reasons for Mary

The Bright Maidens posed this question for today: “Why Mary?”

It is a beautiful question to reflect upon as we begin this month of May, traditionally dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. As I reflect on the question, “Why Mary?”, particular passage of the Sacred Scriptures come to mind that convince me of Mary’s definitive role in our journey of faith, and how she is meant to be honored because of her role in salvation history.

Reason One: Luke 1: 26-38 – the Annunciation

Mary is, like many young women, looking for her future, but as we learn in the Gospel, her plans are interrupted at the words of the angel who tells her she is needed for a special project. she responds “Ecce ancilla Domini. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.” I am the handmaid of the Lord, be done unto me according to your word. What an example for us especially for a society that projects an autonomous attitude of focusing mainly on one’s own project.

Why Mary? She shows us that there is a bigger project in life than our own, and that it is manifested only when we, establish a rhythm of prayer that guides our actions and decision, rather than relying solely on our passions and practical desires; in her trusting the Word of God spoken through the angel, she was able to give an example for us, to become ‘Women of Listening’ to the desires of God, and include His will in our plans.

Mary shows us, that in following God’s design that flows from our obedience to His Word and His precepts (commandments), we to can sing a Magnificat of praise: “God has done great things for me, and Holy is His name!”

Reason Two: John 2:1-11 – the Wedding Feast at Cana

At the wedding feast, as the wine was running out, Mary approached her Son, saying, “They have no more wine.” Have you ever wondered about Jesus indirect answer to her? He responds, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come” (v.4). Mary doesn’t wait to clarify. She turns to the serveants and tells them, “Do whatever he tells you.” And it is through her intercession Jesus’ first recorded miracle in the Gospel of John takes place.

In this example, we are encouraged to rely on Mary in a role as an intercessor. She as a mother knows that if she asks her Son to do something, he will do it. It is a sign of her faith in Jesus’ divinity. She doesn’t know how wine will be supplied – that is not in the scope of her concern – but only trusts that Her Son will provide because she has asked Him.  Today’s Gospel points to this reality, in the kind of faith Mary exhibits: “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14).

Why Mary? Mary, the Woman of Faith, understood these words of Jesus intuitively. She experienced through her relationship with Him that he never disappoints, but brings about everything, so long as it is not contrary to the Father’s will. We then, have recourse to Mary, to intercede on our behalf, just like she did for the wedding couple. And all will be accomplished so to glorify the Father.

Reason Three: John 19:23-27 – at the Foot of the Cross

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother 11 and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.


Ecce Mater Tua. Behold your Mother. When I first heard the Bright Maidens’ challenge to write a post on the topic, “Why Mary,” the tender scene at the foot of the Cross, was the first thought that came to my mind. It is, for me, the culmination of Mary’s ‘Yes’ at the Annunciation. She had no idea when she first said ‘fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum’ that she would one day find herself looking up at her Son on a tree of pain and suffering. Nothing could have prepared her for that day, where her own heart would be wrenched in two. No prophecy (like that of Simeon in Luke 2:34-35) could have told her how sharp that sword of sorrow would be, piercing her motherly heart. Yet, there at the Cross, participating in the suffering of her Son, she continued to say:

“Yes”

“Yes”

“Yes”

I believe that it is here, at the foot of the Cross, Mary teaches us the most important lesson for Christian living. Her “Yes” to God has no conditions placed upon it. No strings attached. It is freely given to God, with her recognition that Her life is forfeited to whatever it is God wants.

Why Mary? Whenever I, in giving myself to God, wish that I hadn’t been so generous, it is Mary that tells me, “No, Lisa Marie, be generous with your ‘yes’, no matter what it costs you.” Looking to her example, how can I take back my small offerings when she has made it her life project to fulfill what she began as that young fifteen year old girl, in that first ‘yes’ to God? My prayer is, that I too, may be faithful in my own daily ‘yes’ that continues to build on my vows as a religious, my first fiat, allowing the Lord’s project for my life, to become my own.

This essay is cross-posted at Canossian Sisters – Sacramento

Linked on Friday Morning Edition at The Pulpit.

Linked at New Advent.

Linked at National Catholic Register.

Linked by The Anchoress at Patheos.

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Related Posts:

By the original ‘Bright Maidens’:

More Posts by Bright Maiden friends:

Passion of Christ and Mary’s Role

As we commemorate the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus this Palm Sunday, my thoughts turn too, to the role of Mary, who is not mentioned Matthew’s narrative, from which we have this year’s readings. My thoughts were prompted by a challenge from a friend.

At the challenge of a friend, I picked up the closest book on hand*, turned to page 56, and wrote down the fifth sentence:

“La Vergine Madre è ai piedi del sacerdote con gli occhi rivolti al cielo, tenendo in braccio il sacro Pegno. Ella sente tutto il peso rovesciato sulla Vittima divina e si unisce ad essa.”

Translation:

“The Virgin Mother is at the foot of the priest with her eyes to heaven, holding in her arms the sacred Pledge. She feels all the weight placed upon the Divine Victim and unites herself to Him.”

A conversation ensued, based on my translation, since I admitted I didn’t like to use the word ‘Pledge’ in this context. Still pondering this thought, I wrote:

“‘Pegno’ is hard to translate here … because what is happening at the Cross is more than a ‘pledge’ (as we would use the word). It is a reference to a promise, a token (another weak word), a sign (a little better?). It is ‘to pawn’ something. Hmmm. Very interesting indeed! Is Jesus what is pawned, for the promise of our future redemption?”

(To use the word ‘pledge’ would be correct, deriving from the Latin ‘pignus’. And ‘pignus’ is where the word ‘pawn’ comes from.)

Peg responds: “His body and blood pawned for the souls of humanity”.

Yes, the image of Jesus given over for humanity works, but in my thoughts, I was trying to imagine God walking into a pawnshop, with His only begotten Son tucked under his arm, to offer him as a temporary holding…no, the image doesn’t quite work.

Then Deb chimed in:

Could it (the pledge) be similar to the Greek word “arrabon” meaning a down-payment?

She made the connection between the letters of Saint Paul, and his use of the Greek word ‘arrabon’, quoting his letter to the Ephesians:

“In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.” (NAB)

Deb’s translation uses the word ‘Guarantee’ in place of the NAB’s ‘first installment’. Both translations point to something in the future, that is to come. Something promised and certain.

So, looking back to my translation, how would it read to replace ‘Pledge’:

“The Virgin Mother is at the foot of the priest with her eyes to heaven, holding in her arms the sacred First-Installment/Guarantee. She feels all the weight placed upon the Divine Victim and unites herself to Him.”

The posturing of Mary, it seemed to me, was all wrong. It was too…priestly (eyes to heaven; offering the ‘sacred Pledge’; uniting herself to the weight of the sacrifice), as though she is offering the Divine Sacrifice. But this sentence cannot be fully understood without the following paragraph, which reads:

“Dopo un istante d’ineffabile raccoglimento alza le braccia e, consengnando il Bambino all’Ufficiante, ne fa con lui solenne oblazione al Padre, e supplica di ricevere, il Figlio suo come prezzo dell’umano riscatto.”

Translation:

“After an inexpressible moment of reflection, she raises her arms, handing over the Child to the Official, makes of him a solemn offering (oblation) to the Father, and begs Him to receive her Son as the price of redeemed humanity.”

So, rather than Mary standing at the Cross, the passage portrays Mary in the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. She is offering her first-born Son. Her offering Jesus in the Temple foreshadows her standing at the foot of the Cross, the altar of supreme Sacrifice. It is for this reason, the first passage can speak of a ‘first-installment’ or ‘pledge’. At His presentation in the Temple, Jesus is the Pledge of future redemption, in that very small, vulnerable Child, offered in the arms of His mother.

This is the Mary we all know and love. She is not the priestess offering the sacrifice, but rather the ‘handmaid of the Lord’, offering the first-fruits of her womb for the service of God and His glory. She presents her only begotten Son in his infancy as the pledge of the future redemption to be brought through his life, suffering, death and resurrection.

What a beautiful example of the Christian life. Luke’s narrative of the Presentation describes Mary, as one who too will experience suffering (and you yourself, a sword shall pierce – Luke 2:35). It is this sword of sorrow that inspired the title for Mary, Mother of Sorrows. She unites herself to her Son in his suffering. We too are called to participate in God’s redemptive work through uniting our own suffering with the Supreme Sacrifice. May we raise our arms and eyes towards heaven, and make a gift back to God all that pierces our heart or afflicts our body, for the service of God and His glory.

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As we come together today, to recall the suffering at the Cross, let us carry in our hearts, Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, who shared in a way the sacrifice of her Son.  A prayer prayed every morning by the Canossian Sisters throughout the world may help us in this intention:

Father, you willed that Mary be at the Foot of the Cross
Sharing in the sacrifice of your Son.
Grant, that through her intercession,
we may bear within ourselves the image of Christ
Crucified and Risen,
and spend ourselves with untiring charity
for the good of our brothers and sisters.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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*  Taken from Spiritualità Canossiana, Sr. Antoinetta Monzoni, FdCC, 1944

This story is cross-posted at National Catholic Register.

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Salvifici Dolores (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering), Pope John Paul II

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Peg Demetris blogs at Peg Pondering Again (and this post linked here)

Deb Thurston – ocds, blogs at Karmalight

The Way of the Cross

The Fridays of Lent, churches around the world open their doors to pray the Stations of the Cross, a tradition promoted by Saint Leonard of Port Maurice (d.1751). These stations mark the path of Jesus from his condemnation before Pilate, to his death, burial and resurrection. These reflections, written by Rev. Richard Furey of Baltimore (1984) walk through the passion of our Lord, through His Mother Mary’s eyes.

Pope Benedict XVI explains:

“The Way of the Cross” is not only a great testimony to an inner depth and maturity, but it is in fact a school for interiority and consolation. It is also a school for the examination of conscience, for conversion, for inner transformation and compassion – not as sentimentality, as a mere feeling, but as a disturbing experience that knocks on the door or my heart, that obliges me to know myself and to become a better person.”

Blessed Prayer!

My Lord and my God,
Under the loving eyes of our Mother,
We are making ready to accompany You
along this path of sorrow,
which was the price paid for our redemption.
We wish to suffer all that You suffered,
To offer You our poor, contrite hearts,
because You are innocent, and yet
You are going to die for us,
who are the only really guilty ones.
My mother, Virgin of sorrows,
help us to relive those bitter hours,
which your Son wished to spend on earth,
so that we, who were made from a handful of clay,
may finally live in the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Amen.


Stations I-V:

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by Your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

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Stations VI-XI:

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by Your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

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Stations XII-XVI:

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by Your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

Let us pray:

Sonnet to our Lord on the Cross

I am not moved to love you, O my God,
That I might hope in promised heaven to dwell;
nor am I moved by fear of pain in hell
to turn from sin and follow where you trod.
You move me, Lord, broken beneath the rod,
Or stretched out on the cross, as nails compel
you hand to twitch. It moves me that we sell,
to mockery and death, your precious blood.
It is, O Christ, your love which moves me so,
that my love rests not on a promised prize;
Nor holy fear on threat of endless woe,
It is not milk and honey, buy the flow
of blood from blessed wounds before my eyes,
that waters my buried soul and makes it grow.
(Anonymous)

Worship of Christ Crucified

Something to think about: “Jesus Crucified was stripped of everything on the Cross except His love.”

These words by Saint Magdalene of Canossa were the inspiration for this video, which invites us to take a moment to offer praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, who “reconciled to himself all things…making peace through His blood, shed on the Cross.” (Colossians 1:2):

A Prayer to Jesus Crucified
Look down upon me, O good and sweetest Jesus,
while before your face I humbly kneel.
Most fervently I pray and beg you,
to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments
of faith, hope and charity,
true sorrow for my sins,
and a firm purpose of amendment.
With deep affection and sorrow
I contmplate your five wounds.
I have before my eyes, O good Jesus,
what David the prophet spoke of you,
as though you were saying it yourself:
They have pierced my hands and feet,
they have numbered all my bones (Psalm 21:17).