Select meditations from an early edition of The Practice of Mental Prayer of Mattia da Salò
From: Mattia da Salò, Predica dell’orazione mentale Parte I, Introduzione ed edizione critica, del P. Umile da Genova, Assisi 1932
Introduction and translation by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap
Mattia da Salò, who was known as Paolo Bellintani, was born in Gazzane in the Provence of Brescia, Lombardy, Italy on 29th June 1535 into a wealthy merchant family. While still a baby he moved with his parents to Salò. He entered the Capuchins in Brescia and began his Noviciate in Bergamo on 7th October 1552 and took the name Mattia. He took vows a year later in Milan and was transferred to Como, Badia, Abbiatrgrasso and Monza where undertook the study of logic and philosophy which he continued in Brescai and Bergamo. The Minister General Tommaso da Città di Castello transferred him to Assisi, Rome, Aversa, Naples and Rieti where he finished the study of theology. He was ordained in Rome on Christmas Day 1560.ae still a baby he moved with his parents to Sal
In a short time, he gained the reputation of being a good preacher and superior. He taught and preached in various cities in Umbria from 1561 until 1567 when the Minister General Mario da Mercato Saraceno appointed him as his secretary and Commissary of Naples. After he had been elected Definitor and Guardian, he lived and preached in Cava de’ Tirreni, Naples and Mola, where he established a Confraternity of Mercy. He was called back to his Province in 1570 where he became Guardian and lector in Brescia. Two years later Charles Borromeo invited him to preach the Lenten Course in Milan. He moved on through Brescia, Cremona, Bergamo and Vercelli and became Vicar Provincial of Milan in 1574.
He was elected a Definitor General in 1575 and went to France in order to spread the Order and subsequently preached in Lyons, Paris, Avignon, Poitiers and Marseille. At the General Chapter in 1578 he was made Commissary General of Genoa, Definitor, Guardian and lector in Bergamo and two years later, in 1580, he became Vicar Provincial of Milan where he became Provincial in 1582. He continued to preach in Messina (1583), Terni and Perugia (1584) and Venice (1585). In 1589 he presided over the Provincial Chapter in Switzerland. He continued to move around as a preacher delivering sermons in Lucca (1590), Genoa, Pavia, Switzerland, Savona and Milan in 1593.
In January 1593 the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando I de’Medici invited him to settle the quarrel between him and the Grand Duke of Spain. And it was then that he met the Archbishop of Pisa, Carlo Antonio Dal Pozzo and the Spanish Ambassador in Rome through Cardinal Giulio Santori.
The fact that in March 1595 the Capuchins rejected his nomination as Commissary General did not prevent his being elected that same year as Definitor in the Province of Brescia and continuing to preach from Venice to Milan. On 31st July 1602 the Minister General, Lawrence of Brindisi, sent him to Prague where he preached for three years. In 1605 the new Minister General, Silvestro d’Assisi, recalled him to Rome because of his advanced age. He was elected Provincial of Brescia in 1605 but had to leave from there the following year because of the Edict of Paul V against the Republic of Venice. His opposition to the return to the Order of the friars who had opposed the Edict led to some hard feelings against him among some friars. They reported his behaviour to the Congregation of Bishops. This did not go ahead in Rome because of a wish to prevent scandal. However, he resigned as Provincial and just preached around Garda. Two years later, in 1609, he was again elected Provincial Definitor and after he had preached in Chiari and Brescia he settled down in the friary at Brescia. It was here, at the age of seventy-five, that he died on 20th July 1611.
Considering these facts, it could be said that Mattia’s life consisted in a journey back and forth between the pulpit and administrative offices within the Order. In the documents that have come down to us, both in printed and manuscript editions, his analysis and advocacy of mental prayer, which adopted the thoughts of St Augustine and St Bonaventure, show his gifts as a contemplative. His history of the Order shows how he thought the Franciscan charism ought to be lived out.
In 1587 Mattia followed Bernardino da Colpetrazzo as the chronicler of the Order. His extensive travel through various countries and Provinces of the Order provided him with practical experience of how the daily lifestyle of the friars was developing over time. Whereas his spiritual works remained popular, his views on life within the Order caused controversy, especially his firm stand against friars who disobeyed the edict against Venice. In his sermons he spoke out strongly against vice, but he did so not to provoke punishment but to motivate a change in the conduct of the offended. He maintained that Christ had taken our punishment upon himself, so it is up to us not to be ungrateful but to admit our sin, be sorry and convert. He did not advocate punishment, but reform.
Mattia’s spiritual masterpiece is The Practice of Mental Prayer. Many of the Capuchin preachers left something with the people when they departed as a kind of keepsake to maintain the enthusiasm aroused by the sermons. While Mattia was in Milan St Charles Borromeo asked Mattia to produce a treatise on the method and practice of mental prayer. A printed edition of this work was published in Venice in 1585. However, a manuscript edition had appeared in 1573 in Brescia. This edition was used by Umile da Genoa in his 1931 publication and the translations of the meditations that follow is based on that publication. This edition runs to two hundred and twenty pages and is dedicated to Domenico Bollani the Bishop of Brescia. It contains an introduction on the importance and method of meditating and then fifty-two exercises which each have an introduction, meditation and proposed activity. The programme entails thinking about the circumstances of the Passion and death of Christ in detail. Although the reason why God sent his Son to die might be too much for our mind to comprehend, we can analyse the human circumstances that brought about the events, the emotions of the people who were present and hear the conversation that went on. In the meditations Mattia adheres to the text of the Gospel but unpacks it one step at a time so that the person dwells on each development on the way to the end of the story. The steps were to be taken slowly, a day at a time. This would bring about personal reform and, in the end, rebuild the entire Church of Christ.
On 5th April 1572, St Charles Borromeo sent out an official Pastoral Letter to the Istituo del’ oratine commune (the Institute of common prayer), that told the members to cultivate family prayer each evening and attached the indulgence granted by Gregory XIII to this practice. One year later, on 1st September 1573, Mattia dedicated the first edition of The Practice of Mental Payer to the Bishop of Brescia, Domenico Bollani, in the following words:
2543 To the most illustrious and reverend Domenico Bollani, Bishop of Brescia and my master in Christ.
The sacred and salutary practice of daily evening pray in every family home was started in your Diocese a couple of years ago to promote Christian piety. This has also been encouraged by Cardinal Borromeo in Milan and all the provinces where he obtained plenary indulgences from Pope Gregory XIII for all who are present in the homes. Because he has urged me to put something down in writing to teach devout souls how to perform mental prayer, I dedicate to your Reverence the humble fruit of the tree which you have planted yourself. In this way when your flock picks the fruit from your hand may it be more delicious and helpful. I hope that this will move your Reverence to kindly accept and develop the few things I have to offer with the love with which I give them, imploring you to always keep them in your loving paternity, just as I continue to beg the divine Majesty to keep you in his perfect grace.
Brescia 1st September 1575
Remaining, most reverend Lordship
Your servant in Christ
Fra Mattia Bellintani da Salò, Capuchin.
Perhaps one of the best indications that Mattia wanted reform from sin rather punishment is contained in a letter that he wrote from Avignon to Cardinal Borromeo on 19th April 1577 in which after telling the Cardinal about the serious scandal of simony he asks the special favour of being allowed to hear confessions, a ministry that was forbidden to Capuchins.
2557 While I have been here in Avignon preaching the Lenten Course, I have observed that the majority of the people have been moved and seeing the extreme need that they have for good directors I called a secret meeting of a few priests to discuss what could help them to live as good priests.
Because the first thing that was necessary was to see how they came by their benefices I found that the sinfulness in this was so rampant that it was beyond negotiations. After a lot of discussion I came to the conclusion that in the end there was only one solution and that was for his Holiness in his mercy to grant me authority in foro conscientiae not only to absolve the delinquents from any kind of censure, but to allow them legitimate possession of the said benefices in which they had been installed, imposing as a penance a way of life that would introduce healthy reform, and observance of the Council of Trent. There is no need to ask them to renounce the benefice because they have no other way of living, and so that they may not do something worse since the situation is so disorderly.
2558 What I am asking is truly great, but so are the reasons behind it, but to me it seems to be reasonable, even necessary. I can see no evil coming from the faculty to absolve since covering it up does not appears to be helpful. Finally, I ask your illustrious Lordship to deign, for it seems to be the right thing, to obtain me this favour, for the good of the faithful and the ruin of heretics. I thought of waiting until I returned to ask you for this, but I am doing it now because of the urgent necessity and so that I could inform you of what good had been achieved. To achieve something good I need assistance from Rome, and I have no one to turn to. If my request is not presumptuous, I implore you to intercede on my behalf with the illustrious Cardinals that are in Rome.”
Mattia’s preferred method for turning people back to God was by preaching. His sermons were very long so that it was necessary both for himself and his audience that there should be more than one break in the sermon after which he would call the congregation to attention once again. The texts of his sermons that have come down to us were written by someone who was listening in the pews. There is hardly a sentence which does not have a quote or reference to scripture, mostly the Gospel. That is why the style is called “evangelical preaching”. His style was popular and large congregations attended.
Personally, he was reluctant to put anything in writing or have things published. However, under pressure from Charles Borromeo and other Bishops he agreed to do so. These works were so popular that they ran into many editions which continued to be produced even after his death. The Practice of mental Prayer grew over time. The earliest edition was printed in Venice by Pietro Dusinello in 1584. It was edited by Umile da Genpa in 1931 and the meditations that follow have been translated from this edition.
The meditations take up details in the Gospel account particularly dwelling on the emotions of the participants as evidenced either in their conversation or Mattia’s interpretation of how they experienced the situation at the time. Mattia allows his imagination to run on and invites the one at prayer to do the same. As he describes the birth of Christ, Mary not only gives birth without any help, but it is the middle of winter and she has no clothes for the child so she improvises and is so struck that the child is the Son of God that she does not dare pick him up and Joseph has to put him in the manger. In the conversations that take place on Calvary every word is analysed. Mattia speculates that when Christ and the Good Thief speak about the Kingdom that in spite of Mary’s suffering over what has happened to her Son, she is comforted by hearing about a Kingdom that is to come next. The reference to human emotions is also clear in the meditation on Christ’s visit to Purgatory, a meditation that has not been translated here. However, Mattia asks the question if the souls of the just who had died still experienced human emotions. He thinks that they do. He speculates that when Mary’s parents arrived in Purgatory the Prophets and the others ran to ask them what was Christ really like because as Mary’s parents they had personal experience whereas the ancients were still relying on hope. Mattia’s whole objective in prayer is to persuade the one at prayer to experience something personal in union and sympathy with the people in that incident. He sees the value of vocal prayer but says mental prayer goes a step further and produces union. He maintains that when emotions are aroused action will follow. The intellect sees the evidence, but cannot fully understand the mystery, but the will is moved to love and is lifted up to the Father.
The following meditations have been selected at random as an example of what Mattia is offering the The Practice of Mental Prayer.
The Glorious Birth of Jesus Christ
Since prayer ought to come mainly from the heart and not just from the external body when the soul begins to pray though it kneels down physically, it should more truly kneel down in spirit! It does this by humbling itself before God as if it were not worthy to appear before him, to pray or to obtain any grace. To do this it needs to look up to God and to look within itself.
This act of humility is followed by supplication begging God to admit it into his presence and to infuse it with the spirit of prayer looking to receive both of these with sensitivity and not just as practicing what has become a habit. Then on can start to meditate.
Beware, meditative soul, that when you meditate on Christ’s mysteries even though you consider their physical features that you do not dwell only on external appearances but penetrate into the inner mystery not only after you have gone over the exterior elements that serve as a means of entering into the inner concepts, but also at the beginning of the meditation when making an act of faith that proclaims your total belief in the mysteries on which you are meditating as something that is divine, wonderful as so exalted that the human intelligence cannot attain complete knowledge of it. Then you can begin your meditation.
O soul, place before your eyes the hovel where Mary and Joseph were staying on Christmas night marvelling at how both of them were praying on their knees. Stop to think about Mary’s prayer as she was the purest creature that ever lived on earth. Her mind was enlightened with the clearest recognition of the divine grandeur and sweetness which was greater than anything up to that moment. She was on fire with more burning love than she had ever experienced. The warmth and ardour continued to increase the closer the moment of the birth approached.
You can be absolutely certain that through the workings of divine grace Most Holy Mary having achieved the highest state of contemplation was lifted up to the clear unveiled vision of God that the saints have in Paradise. By means of this she saw God as he is, and the child to which she was about to give birth to be true God, equal to the Father in grandeur, beauty, majesty, power and every virtue. She saw he had had been generated eternally by the Father and how the Spirit of love had made him take on our flesh. She saw many other secrets that are not allowed to be revealed. Oh most happy mind that even while in the flesh contemplated God face to face in a much better way than Moses or Paul!
Note how while Mary and Joseph were wrapped in contemplation Christ was miraculously born from the intact womb, in the same way that after his resurrection he came and went through closed doors. Thus in a flash he was on the ground in front of Mary without her experiencing any pain at all.
Hurry to look at him as he lies naked on the ground not appearing to be different to any other man. Just as his power had raised Mary’s mind to exalted contemplation, so too his weakness and nakedness moved her within. Thus when Mary had regained her composure she immediately recognised the one whom she had so greatly desired lying there in front of her.
Think about what must have been going through Mary’s mind as she saw the Baby Jesus in front of her. Try to experience her joy which was so great than no other creature on earth would have experienced the like because when one desire is fulfilled the heart rejoices. Also try to experience Mary’s wonder. She experienced this when she contemplated the grandeur of his divinity but was now seeing him reduced to being so tiny. Now keep her company to admire the various things that exits within the one person: differences between glory and desolation, between omnipotence and weakness and the like. Once again try to experience the reverence and love that struck her mind so that she did not dare to touch him because she throbbed with so much love that she could not pick him up with her arms. Think deeply about the conflict between these two emotions in Mary. However, love prevailed which was increased by compassion when she saw him suffering naked on the floor and heard him crying. Then sorrow and grief joined with love so that she was totally carried away by God and when she saw him crying could do nothing less than feel pity and cry with him. Nevertheless, her joy was greater and so the tears were very sweet.
For the second main consideration see well how she adored him with all the strength of her spirit and by means of external gestures profess him to be her God and creator. She then picked him up much more reverently than any priest, no matter how enlightened he would have been, when he touched the Most Holy Sacrament with much reverence, as Christ had told him to do. Think of how she wrapped him in a piece of cloth that she might have been wearing over her head and pressed him to her breast and lovingly kissed his forehead.
Having stepped aside with Joseph she stood there with him watching the Angels of Paradise come down to earth. They came into the stable which had now become Paradise because God was present. They all came, perhaps even visibly so as to match his appearance, one band after the other, and adored. Listen to their songs, gaze on their ranks and their actions. All of those who had adored the child, joining their hands, also adored Mary accepting here as their Queen as they proclaimed her to be the Mother of their King. O Mary, what happiness you must have felt over the honour that was shown to your son, for the grace that had been given to you by the Incarnate God, and for the delightful sight of all the heavenly spirits as well as for the special experience that God had given you!
Joseph plucked up courage, perhaps after Mary had called him, and came in. He adored the small infant and leaning over he kissed him very devoutly. As there was no other place, he then placed him in the manger where even the animals adored him and approached him to warm him with their breath.
So you too, along with Mary, the Angels and Joseph, should adore Christ in spirit as if he were present, recognising him as your true Saviour and Redeemer.
Thank and praise him for the infinite sweetness that he has sent to you in his joyful coming. Gather your thoughts and think deeply how he did all this for sinners, among whom you are not the least one. Having seen what God has done for you, be sorry that you have done nothing for him. So that your sorrow may be great compare yourself with God, and what he has done for you with what you have failed to do for him, remembering the obligation that you have to promote his honour the way he provides you with what is necessary.
Be very sorry for your great mistakes. Pray to the divine Baby to whom it belongs to forgive and reconcile, that by means of his joyful birth he may forgive you and change your weeping into joy.
Make a resolution not to spare your good or your energy in serving him.
Ask him to help you to carry out this good proposal and at the same time offer a prayer for the needs of the Church, Pastors, Princes, relatives, friends and the living and the dead and mention your special intentions and those of others. Finally thank him for having revealed his mysteries to you.
Our Father, Hail Mary.
The Shepherds Hear the News of the Birth of the Saviour
As the Saviour says, because a human person is puffed up, he needs to humble himself since prayer is the raising of the heart to God and this means that whoever wants to pray appropriately should humble himself at the beginning. Therefore, recognising that the soul is very disadvantaged he is quite anxious when he comes before God to pray.
As well as this making of a great effort, he lifts his heart up to God. Invoking his Creator and Saviour he asks him to give him light, strength and perseverance in the act that he is about to begin, knowing that he cannot do anything on his own, especially to pray in a Christian manner.
The holy Angels always love the human race, because they are full of charity both because they are acting in accord with the will of God, who loves us and wants them to love us, and because they know that we were predestined to be their companions in heaven. However, when they saw that God truly became man, they acquired a very great reason as to why they should love us.
When the most solemn feast of the birth of the Saviour had taken place, the Angels went off to tell the Shepherds who were attending to their sheep so that they might share in this joyful event. This happened, firstly, to show human beings that God was making peace with them in the same way that he had made peace with the Angels. Secondly, this happened so that human beings could gradually become aware of the mystery and thus receive salvation. Thirdly, to show that spiritual Pastors ought to be the first ones to hear about the divine mysteries from God, by means of the Angels and the Sacred Scriptures and then pass this on to others.
It would seem that the Shepherds were simple people who were upright and who feared God, and who not only believed in the coming of the Messiah, as all Jews did, but who had received a special enlightenment and longing infused by God. This implies that at that moment they were either discussing it or thinking about it over, which thus prepared them for such a generous and great revelation.
While they were experiencing this, they saw the flash of a great light within which the Angel of the Lord appeared and alarmed them. He immediately said to them: “Do not be afraid, I bring you great and joyful news for all. Today a Saviour is born for you in Bethlehem, and he is the Messiah. This will be a sign for you. You will find him wrapped in linen and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a large multitude of Angels joined the first one and they began to sing and to praise God saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will”. When they thought this over, the fear that the Shepherds experienced at the sight of the Angel who had appeared with such extraordinary brightness, the joy they experienced at the news of the birth of the Messiah, in whom they believed, the fascination that they felt on hearing the gentle angelic chorus, and, finally, the upshot of Christ’s birth which was the glory of God and the welfare of mankind, could all be expressed in one word: peace.
When the Angels had departed singing joyful songs and the Shepherds had settled down, believing what they had heard, they decided to go and see what they had been told them. Guided by divine inspiration, and also perhaps by the rays of light that shone out from the stable that served a sign to guide them or perhaps because day had dawned, they went into Jerusalem and enquired where a child had been born during the night in a stable and had been placed in a manger, because Angels had told them that he was the Messiah. Perhaps there were others who were searching with them. At last they found him and recognised that it was he of whom the Angels had spoken. This amazed everyone who heard about it.
Since the Shepherds has been externally instructed by the Angel and internally enlightened by God, they recognised that the Baby was the great Prophet who had been expected to be the Lord and Saviour of the whole world, they humbly adored him with gestures and words of greatest reverence. They were filled with more enlightenment and the greatest consolation. Oh, how happy were they who were given such grace! Then blessing God and telling everyone about the heavenly event, they returned to their work.
Mary paid great attention to all that was happening, observing all that was done or said in very modest silence. She saw that everything showed real evidence that her child was God. This was a great consolation to her.
Pay careful attention to all that happened to the Shepherds and share in their emotions as if you were them.
Rejoice because you are experiencing with certainty that Christ was born for your consolation since the Angel had said that his birth would bring joy to the entire world. Think about this carefully so that you can feel interior joy.
As you can see that the mystery and joy was revealed to those who were awake, wake up from your sleep to serve God, knowing that becoming involved in worldly things, while being lukewarm in the service of God is falling asleep so as not to experience the genuine and greatest of pleasures.
You can see that in return for the great works that God does he expects nothing more than honour and that he gives you all that is necessary and inspires you to honour him. Rouse yourself to do your best to follow what God wants and do not go any further until you feel that your heart is inflamed with such desires.
When your heart has been moved by the foregoing reasons, turn and see how far your life is from this and let this great mystery spur you on. This will cause you bitter sorrow in proportion to how much your heart has been inflamed. However, by going over the preceding considerations, try to improve.
Let this great sorrow move you to throw yourself down at the feet of the great Baby asking his forgiveness, promising that with the help of his grace to amend your ways. Ask for his help most insistently. Also pray for others and give thanks.
Our Father, Hail Mary.
The Flight into Egypt
As a preparation, at the beginning of your meditation think about the usual points. Firstly, humble yourself most profoundly in the sight of God. Secondly, ask him to help you to do what is pleasing to him. Trusting in his mercies begin the meditation.
Dwell on the flight into Egypt that took place following the mysteries of Christ’s infancy, which were the Incarnation, Birth, Circumcision, Adoration of the Magi and the Presentation in the Temple. Think of the journey to Egypt after the Angel had warned Joseph telling him to take the child and his Mother and escape into Egypt because Herod was searching for him to kill him. (Mt 2:13-14). Imagine the fear and sadness that Joseph and Mary experienced when they heard this. Imagine their amazement when they realised that the Son of God would begin to be persecuted so soon and how there might have been another way to save him as he was omnipotent. Nevertheless, they were anxious to begin the escape journey. Consider also the wonder that they experienced when they considered how he who was God had set the people of Israel free from Egypt and now was forced to escapes into Egypt. Also think of how Christ had freed the Chosen Race from the debt that they owed to God for setting them free from Egypt, yet he was going there as a fugitive. Think of the inconvenience they were suffering in having to leave at night and abandon their home, their homeland and their family. Accompany Mary and Joseph as they prepare the few things that they would be taking with them. Then think how when they were on their way Mary had to carry the child in her arms and meditate on the uneasiness associated with going in amongst strangers; going through desert places; meeting dangers as well as finding accommodation for those nights. They may have had to often either sleep beside the road or out in the open, or in stables, huts or similar poor and uncomfortable places. With regard to the journey you still have to consider the mental anguish that both of them experienced both because of their fear that something terrible would happen and because they could see how much the child was suffering. You should also note the very disturbing and embarrassing conversation they had to have with all kinds of people, and how they would avoid company whenever they could by going off on their own or by talking about divine things. You would see that Joseph was never far from Mary so that nothing bad could happen to her or to the child, and how he attended to the child when Mary had to do something. Consider also how at night even though they were tired they spent most of the time in prayer.
For the second main point, think about how they remained in Egypt for about seven years. Think of them having some kind of small dwelling with a little bit of land and how they lived out a very poor existence with Joseph earning a little as a carpenter and with Mary perhaps doing some cooking. They may not always have stayed in the one place being compelled to change place either because the people were rude, because of their poverty or because of the fear of persecution or for some other reason. Consider how the child began to stand up and to walk and dance. Mary looked on with great reverence and devotion, not playing with him as other mothers do with their children, but because of her respect for him whom she could never forget was God and because everything that he did was filled with mystery. Therefore, she pondered over his glances, his gestures and his every word. She paid even more attention when he began to speak, taking careful note of each word. As the child grew, she observed how his behaviour corresponded perfectly to his stage of development and how he avoided the company of other children. Mary and Joseph studied what he did so as to learn from his example just as you ought to try to do so as to imitate his noble ways.
Consider the return of the exiles to their homeland, thinking about the Angel’s warning, their happiness, the inconvenience of their departure, as well as the fatigue of the journey given that the entire journey, or at least part of, had to be carried out on foot. Finally, consider the new fear of Joseph when he learnt that Archelaus reigned and so he had to go and live in Nazareth.
Sympathise with Christ, Mary and Joseph for the distress they endure because of the many bad things that happened.
Resolve to be like Christ and not to become angry when you are persecuted and not able to defend yourself.
Recognise that this world is a place of pilgrimage as Christ showed by the example he set; and detach your heart from it and agree to endure the emptiness of temporal things.
Resolve to work for the love of Christ, because he spent himself for you.
Repent for having failed, especially for having fallen in love with the world and sought every comfort and not having applied yourself in the service of Christ.
Ask God’s grace to do so in future. Finally, also pray for others and end your prayer in offering thanksgiving.
Our Father, Hail Mary.
How Jesus Took Leave of His Mother
Christ: – My child, when you come before me to contemplate you should humble yourself very deeply, since my divine nature is so exalted, it demands that you should show respect for it as well as for my human nature. I will teach you how to humble yourself.
You also should beg me to guide you in doing this so that you know where to go in order to penetrate my mysteries.
Perhaps you believe that it was very bitter for me to take leave of my Mother, my beloved Mary and Magdalene and the other women. You must also know that I would not leave without asking leave to go. So imagine the anxiety that I experienced within myself when I had to cause my Mother so much sorrow when I had to tell her plainly what was about to happen, something that she already suspected and that caused her distress. You should not think that I experienced any less sorrow than any other man would have experienced, and I know how you would feel. Think of how I took my Mother aside into another room and gently told her that I had to leave and go to my death to follow the will of my Father. Oh, what a sharp sword this was for her most compassionate heart!
Consider how Mary, being overcome by sorrow, began to beg, as I had done in the garden, though always being submissive to the divine will, that if it were possible, I could do this in some way other than by my death. I told her that there was no other way since this is what my Father had decreed. She then asked me whether at least she could die first. I told her that that was not the right thing since she had to be there with me through everything. Thirdly, she asked that I should at least die a less painful death. I replied that my death had to be very painful and shameful so as to fulfil what the prophets had said and pay the full price of redemption and to show the greatest amount of love for mankind in order to draw their hearts to me more strongly. Then overcome with pain my Mother fell onto me breast. I cried and said something to console her.
When it was time to leave, I went down on my knees like the obedient son that I was and in front of my Mother asked her permission and blessing. This was extremely painful for me, for her and for all who were near us, including the holy women and the Apostles. I thanked my Mother for all that she had done and undergone in particular for me. Similarly, she thanked me for giving her the honour of being my Mother, for respecting her, serving and loving her. She asked me to give her my blessing. I also thanked Mary and Magdalene for the love that had shown me, and I entrusted my Mother to them. My poor Apostles stood there shocked, crying silently. This is how I left. However, my child, do not go away from my saintly Mother in your heart.
So that you can feel my Mother’s sorrow think of her as my Mother. Think of how she was a Mother and a widow. She was compassionate by nature and in practice. She was left on her own and her only son went to a bitter and violent death not because of his age but out of obedience to the true God in whom he had placed all his love.
If this has not moved you to tears, I do not know what will. The situation is so pitiable that no one would be able to avoid crying. Do not do the wrong thing and go away with dry eyes and a hard heart.
Think how I left my Mother in such agony so that you could be saved, to go in search of you when you were lost like the lost sheep. Oh, why do you run way? Why do you not allow yourself to be found? Why do you abandon me, my child? I left my Mother and all of my friends because of you. Therefore, make a resolution that you will be all mine.
Finally, be sorry for having abandoned me by placing you love in creatures rather than in me.
Our Father, Hail Mary.
The other six word of Jesus and his passing
O soul, perform first the usual two acts so as to be well prepared for prayerful meditation. The first is an act of humility to help you think about God’s majesty by following Christ’s example. The second is an act of prayer, asking God in his generosity to help you in this activity since the enemy of prayer is always fighting against anyone who tries to meditate on Christ’s Passion, because he knows this is more fruitful than anything else.
While the Jews were rejoicing over Christ, one of the thieves said to him: “If you are the Son of God save yourself and us.” The other retorted: “Have you no fear of God? Have you not been given the same sentence as he has received? We deserved it for our crimes, but he has done nothing wrong.” He turned to Christ and said: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Christ replied: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” First of all, consider the fruit of the cross which has already started to confer paradise on sinners, something that had never happened from the beginning of the world up to that moment. Second: think of how that must have made the good thief feel… It gave him interior enlightenment to believe that Christ was innocent and a real king and so he asked him to remember him when he came into his heavenly kingdom. You likewise should believe what Christ said and then you will face death without any concern. Consider how the thief knew that Christ’s Kingdom was not of this world, when he asked Jesus to remember him after he died. Also consider how when Mary heard these words, she must have experienced some comfort in considering how from that day men would begin to enter paradise. Nevertheless, she was still afflicted, because she was not certain what her Son meant.
Second consideration: Christ has already spoken twice, once to his Father and then to the thief. Now he turned to Mary with a merciful glance and said to her: “Woman, behold your son”, looking at John. He then turned to John and said: “Behold your mother.” Note, O Christian soul, firstly, that Christ did not call Mary Mother. This was so that the use of that title would not cause her more pain, and because at that moment he was assigning her as a Mother to John. Secondly: note how John approached Mary and kneeling down in front of her, accepter her as his Mother, and that she embraced him accepting him as her son. Thirdly: think of how this was a comfort to Mary because Christ was taking care of her. However, it also caused her to be sad about making this kind of exchange. Fourthly: think of how highly honoured John was, at being adopted as the son of God’s Mother, and thus a brother to Christ. O what bitter sweetness and sweet bitterness for Mary and John!
Third consideration: the fourth word that Jesus said was: “I thirst.” Here we should note, first of all, that Christ was suffering greatly from bodily thirst, since all his strength had been taken away and his blood had been shed. However, his thirst was mainly spiritual. He was thirsty, that is he had a desire for two things: one was to keep on suffering, if that was necessary, because he loved mankind so much that to suffer for it seemed a small thing. However well satisfied his enemies were about his sufferings, He was still not satisfied. He also thirsted for his Passion to make an impression on us so that it would achieve the salvation of all mankind. When they heard him complaining, one of the soldiers ran and got a sponge and attached it to a piece of cane, and dipped it in vinegar and gall, which might have been the wine that they gave Jesus at the beginning and pressed on Christ’s mouth. The sting of this bitterness was the only torment that he had not experienced up to this point.
Fourth consideration: In the meantime, Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His Father had abandoned him in as much as he had left him up to experiencing the forces of nature. He did to his Son what he has done to martyrs, who experienced great comfort in their torments. Jesus expressed his great abandonment as if he were making a complaint just to show how deeply he felt it.
Fifth consideration: The torment was increasing and so was his loss of strength and the hour of death arrived. The Our Lady saw signs on her Son of how death was very close. This made her feel like dying. Jesus cried out: “It is consummated,” that is everything has been carried out, as if to say to the Father: “I have done what you commanded.” When he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” Then he yielded up his spirit. Note, firstly, that he did this primarily to set us an example so that at the hour of death we would commend our spirit to God. Think of how when the Centurion saw how he had cried out as he was dying, he realised that this was impossible through natural strength and was proof that he was the Son of God. He, together with others, then departed striking their breasts, repenting that they had crucified him. Think of how Christ’s sorrow was extreme when the spirit left the body. Even dumb creatures displayed sadness: the sun was eclipsed, the earth shook, the rocks and the mountains split, the veil in the temple was torn, for all of them were inviting mankind to feel compassion for the death of their Creator.
If ever you felt compassion for what the Lord suffered, you ought to feel it more when he is dying, and dumb creatures are teaching you and urging you to feel sorry.
Love and express most affectionate thanksgiving as now you have every reason to do so.
Give your entire life to the service of God, who not only offered his life for you, but actually gave it up. Make a resolution that your entire life will be given over to his service and that you would rather die than offend him.
Be unhappy that you are not zealous about your salvation, even though God put such great value on it and thirsted so much for it. Be sorry that you caused your soul’s death and acknowledge that he died so that your soul would have life.
Entrust your spirit to him, praying that he will cleanse you from sin and fill you with his grace, and continue to help you.
Also entrust others to him, and end by thanking him.
Our Father, Hail Mary.