Rosary Crusade Clarion
Devotional bulletin of the Rosary Crusade in Canada

March 2002 Issue #15

Mary At The Foot Of The Cross

Mary's sorrows will now engage our attention. We shall see how great her sufferings were: because she suffered in her heart and soul; because her sufferings were the result of her great love for her divine Son; because she saw that Jesus would die in vain for countless souls who would not profit by His death....

Mary at the foot of the cross


For many years Mary had known what her sufferings were to be. In her soul she treasured fearfully the prophetic words which Simeon had addressed to her on the occasion of the Child's presentation in the temple: "And thy own soul a sword shall pierce" (Luke 2: 35).

These words were fulfilled to the letter. For, as St. Jerome remarks, the tortures that wracked the sacred members of Christ's body were all collected in Mary's heart - the thorns, the nails, the cross, the wounds, the bruises, all the pains and spasms. All these Mary suffered in her heart while she stood at the foot of the cross under the gaze of her dying Son (Jn. 19: 25-27). For this reason St. Anselm turns to her and says: "O Mary, all the most cruel torments that were inflicted on the bodies of the martyrs were as nothing compared with what thou didst suffer in thy most tender heart! I would not believe, 0 most sweet Virgin, that thou couldst endure so much suffering without losing thy life, were it not that thou wert sustained by thy divine Son." With reason, then, does Holy Church invoke Mary under the title Queen of Martyrs: "Queen of Martyrs, pray for us. "

Mary's sufferings were great because they were caused by her love for her divine Son. In fact, the measure of our suffering for others is always in proportion to the love which we bear them. Hence, in order to measure the intensity of Mary's sufferings it would be necessary to understand thoroughly her love for her divine Son. Mary's love for Jesus was threefold: natural love, acquired love, supernatural love.

In the first place, Mary's love for Jesus was a natural love because she was His Mother and He was her Son. As it is only natural that every mother should love her children, it is equally natural that her heart should be always ready to share in their sufferings. And the more tender and affectionate a mother's heart is, the more she is inclined to take part in her children's sufferings. Now, Mary was the tenderest and most affectionate of all the mothers that ever lived upon this earth. Moreover, Mary had a greater claim to be the Mother of Jesus than other women have to be the mothers of their children. Her motherhood is unique in that she conceived and bore her Son without the intervention of any human agency. For Jesus Christ "was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary". Thus, as Mary shared with no one the honour and happiness of her divine motherhood, she shared with no one her tenderness and love for her divine Son. In fine, Mary's natural love for her Son surpassed by far the love of all parents for their children.

In the second place, Mary had in her heart an acquired love for Jesus. By this we mean a mother's love that is derived from the special qualities of her child; for instance, if he is an only child, if he is attractive, if he has all the attributes of a model child. Now Jesus was Mary's only child. He was the most beautiful, the most gracious, the most affable, the most amiable of all men. Of Him the Psalmist says: "Thou art beautiful above the sons of men" (Ps. 44:3). And the Apostle speaks of Christ Jesus "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3). Jesus was indeed the most perfect among all children and the most worthy of Mary's love. And her love of Him grew with the years. Holy Church calls Mary the "Mother of the sole-begotten one" (Stabat Mater), the "Mother of divine grace" (Litany of Loreto), the "Mother of fair love" (Ecclus. 24: 24). In fine, Mary's acquired love for Jesus was greater than that of all other mothers for their children.

In the third place, Mary's love for her divine Son was supernatural, for He was not only the fruit of her most chaste womb, but He was also God. "For," as the Apostle says, "in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead corporeally" (Col. 2:9). If other mothers wish to love their children rightly, they must love them in God and for God, that is, their love for them must not derogate from the love which they owe to God. But when Mary loved her child, as other mothers love their children, the child that Mary loved was God. For this reason Mary knew that her Child was worthy of her love. She knew, too, that He loved her more than all other creatures whether in heaven or on earth, as He had bestowed more grace on her than on all the angels and saints combined. If a mother still continues to love her child even when he proves unworthy, and when he fails to love her in return, how great must have been Mary's love for Jesus who was so worthy, and who loved her so much! Yes, Mary's love for her child was boundless, and she loved Him as God.


Now, if Mary's threefold love of Jesus was so great, how intense must have been her sorrow and suffering as she stood beneath the cross of Calvary during His dying moments! There she saw Him fastened with nails to the gibbet, crowned with thorns, torn by the scourges, covered with blood, disfigured, forsaken by God and man so that He cried out with a loud voice: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Man. 24: 46). From time to time a little colour came to His face; but His flesh gradually became livid; and finally His eyes closed. Oh if Mary could only extend a little comfort to her beloved Jesus in His terrible sufferings. But think of her sorrow when she saw her dear Son's naked body and could not protect it from the elements and from the curious gaze of the jeering rabble; when she saw it covered with a cold sweat, and could not dry it with her maternal hand; when she heard Him ask for something to quench His thirst, and could not give Him as much as a drop of water to moisten His parched lips! In her distress she would like to see an end to His suffering, but she did not wish to see Him die; she would like to see Him live, but she did not wish to see Him continue to suffer. No mind can conceive nor tongue express the greatness of Mary's sorrow as she stood at the foot of the cross of her dying Son. To her as well as to Him may be applied the words of Jeremias: "O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my Sorrow" (Lam. 1:12).

Mary's sufferings were great because she foresaw that the blood of Jesus would be shed in vain for countless souls. Owing to her immense love for Jesus, it was excessively painful for her to consent to His death. However, the thought that He was giving His life to save poor innocent souls, unjustly persecuted and condemned to death, would have afforded her some relief. Then His death would have brought the triumph of justice. But there was no such thought to console her: He was dying for wicked men who raised their sacrilegious hand against God for sinful and ungrateful men who despised His friendship. Yet, full of compassion as she was for fallen man, the Virgin would have been willing to bear all this and more could she have foreseen that all men would repent of their sins and save those souls for which Jesus Christ shed His blood and gave His life. But, alas, even then she saw her beloved Jesus stretch out His arms from the cross to a people that did not believe in Him and contradicted Him; she heard the blasphemies and derisions that the furious Jews hurled against Him, as they passed before the cross and shook their heads; she heard them call down His blood upon themselves and upon their children. She foresaw even then that the chosen people, who were also her people, upon whom God had lavished His benefits, would be rejected by Him because of their ingratitude and obstinacy. She foresaw that their enemies would one day besiege their city and destroy it, leaving nothing but desolation and ruin. She foresaw the Jews dispersed from their country, without a kingdom, without a priesthood, without an altar, condemned to wander all over the globe. She foresaw that they would remain obstinate in their sins and be lost forever. She foresaw that the crucified Christ would be to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles foolishness (I Cor. 1: 23). She foresaw that despite Christ's redemption, idolatry would still continue on earth; that man would go on worshipping the sun, moon, stars, plants, and vile animals; that wicked men would be adored as gods; that altars would be erected to the most vile vices; that the most shameful crimes would be committed; and that in this manner countless souls would be eternally lost.

Nor is this all. She foresaw that in the very bosom of the Church wicked men, full of pride, would rise up to deny and fight against her most sacred truths, and try to replace them with the most grave errors - false prophets who come in the clothing of sheep but inwardly are wolves, working havoc among Christ's flock, seducing the faithful, detaching them from the body of the one true Church, and dragging them into heresy and schism. She foresaw that many who had been enriched by the divine graces, who have partaken of the sacraments, and have been blessed with so many of the other divine mercies, would willingly and maliciously trample on the blood of Christ and be lost for ever. Yes, her foresight of all these things to come increased her sorrow and suffering a thousandfold. These things were the sword that was to pierce her heart and soul, and make her the most desolate of all women, the most afflicted of all mothers - the real Mother of Sorrows.

Alas, that any among us should ever belong to the number of those who she foresaw would add to her affliction! How sad would it be for her and how fatal for us were we to refuse or neglect to share in Christ's redemption. Let us implore the Mother of Sorrows, that through her maternal love she may never allow us to be numbered among the children of perdition. Let us entreat her rather that we may all profit by the sufferings and death of her divine Son and by her own sorrows and sufferings, that we may one day have the happiness to bless and thank God in heaven, "because He is good, because His mercy endureth forever" (I Mac. 4: 24).

- from Discourses on Our Lady, by Fr. O'Rafferty.

True devotion in its highest meaning includes love for, and imitation of, the person to whom we are devoted, and Holy Mother Church presents for our prayerful devotion during Lent the Sacred Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the fervent hope that we shall be aroused to imitate Him....

Gratitude should fill our hearts at the thought of God's goodness to us in giving us His own adorable Son as a Model to imitate, so that we have only to look at Him to know what we have to do. Hear Christ Himself say: "I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do" (Jn. 13:15). Christ is the only way we must follow, especially in the practice of virtue, and it was during the Passion that His practice of the virtues was strikingly sublime and heroic. In the most trying circumstances our Lord gave us during the Passion examples of those virtues we somehow lack - meekness, mercy, charity, silence, patience, abandonment, and obedience to His Father's will - even unto death.

Well did St. Bonaventure say: "He who desires to go on advancing from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace, should constantly meditate on the Passion of Jesus Christ."

- from Reflections on the Passion, bv Fr. Doyle.


Mother Mary


I wish you all the blessings of this Holy Season, that by fasting and prayer, you may prepare well for the triumphant Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before the triumph comes the trial and tragedy; so many men are offered an opportunity to recognize Jesus as King, and they reject Him. We also will be tried, and so we must take heed of the graces our Lord offers us this Lent, which will strengthen us, lest we deny that Jesus Christ rules over our lives, and by sin enter the service of the devil.

Pray then that you may be faithful. Pray more rosaries than usual, to ask graces for yourselves and so many others - the members of our families, our priests, our country.... Use especially the sorrowful decades to consider the sufferings of our Saviour, and resolve to imitate His virtuous example.

United to you in devotion to the Blessed Virgin, I am,
Emanuel Herkel
Fr. E. Herkel