Friday, March 23, 2012

Our Sorrowful Age and The Seven Dolors

Our Sorrowful Age and The Seven Dolors.
Matthew Bellisario 2012

    There have been trying times for the Church in past ages. It is true that every generation perceives their challenges to be the worst, since they alone can claim to have experienced their trials. We cannot go back and experience the Arian heresy where Saint Athanasius woke up one morning and found himself surrounded by heretics. But we do however experience this age, where we witness apostates and heretics attempting to wreck Christ’s Church from within, while rabid atheists and secularists seek to dethrone God and exterminate Him from our culture. Abortion has become the sacred offering for a godless humanity spanning across the globe, driven by heartless materialism and sexual gratification known only to the pagan cults of times past. Yes, we can say that we are living in a sorrowful age.

     Despite the sex without “consequences,” the materialism gone wild, the “no commitment” relationships and the staunch relativism, where truth becomes anything you want it to be, we are a most miserable generation. If we are so enlightened and have apparently dug ourselves out of that repressed mediaeval mindset, why are antidepressants the third most prescribed drug on the market? If one has to drug themselves to be happy, are they at peace with themselves and their actions? Probably not. It is estimated that more than 11% of the US population is taking these antidepressant drugs, and a much larger percentage claims to be suffering from severe depression. Most people however do not realize that this is not just a mental problem, it is a problem that goes down to the core of a person, down to the fabric of their souls. Many are drugging their consciences to sleep. If they are not killing their consciences with drugs, they are doing it by trying to oust God out of their lives completely so they will not be reminded that they are God’s creation. This has been the insidious tactic of the politicians of our age, who have tried to remove God out of the public square for decades by creating laws which forbid God’s name to be used or any symbolism referring to God.

    The reality is, people today simply are not able to cope with the artificial lifestyle that they live today. We are living lives of grand delusion. How can a generation kill their offspring at such an alarming rate without being depressed? How can we go from one relationship to another, living lives of infidelity without some sort of traumatizing consequences? How many times have I heard the genius who is on their 3rd marriage tell me that people should live with the people they are dating before they get married, to “test drive” them out? That brilliant plan seems to have worked really well for them, no? Divorce rates are well over 50%, and children are growing up living in separated households, watching their parents engage in intimacy with someone other than their mom or dad. Do we think that all of this, which rebels against the fabric of human nature will not torture our consciences? Hence the antidepressants, and other “tools” to help people cope with “life.” Certainly there are people with real mental imbalances that may need medication to help them, but as a rule, the vast number of people on these drugs are just trying to dull their consciences. They cannot cope with reality, because they are trying to invent their own “reality.” We could say that this “depression” is the result of the sorrows of our age, which are driven by relativism and immorality being lived out to their extremes. We could go further by identifying all of this with humanity’s despair. Saint Thomas tells us, “That which leads men to sin, seems not only to be a sin itself, but a source of sins. Now such is despair, for the Apostle says of certain men (Ephesians 4:19): "Who, despairing, have given themselves up to lasciviousness, unto the working of all uncleanness and [Vulgate: 'unto'] covetousness." Therefore despair is not only a sin but also the origin of other sins.” So despair is what happens when we try and oust God out of lives, and hence our sins grow in proportion and gravity.

    The only remedy for the sorrows of our age; abortion, divorce, adultery, promiscuity, contraception, wars, famine, heresy, apostasy, atheism, and the many other “isms” plaguing our Church and our culture is for those who believe in Christ to live the Catholic faith with extreme tenacity and dedication. That means that we must pray more, we must spend more time with God and less time entertaining ourselves. As Padre Pio said, “Prayer is the best weapon we possess. It is the key that opens the heart of God.” We must also spread the Gospel to others when we have the opportunity to do so. We must, when God gives us an opportunity, stand up for Him, and not let others exterminate the Catholic faith from our culture. We must begin with prayer, but we must not let opportunities go by to act and do God’s will. Remember, faith and works are married together. We must act when we are able to, both within the Church and in our communities, but we must act from a life steeped in prayer. There are enemies of Christ in the Church and outside the Church, and we must oppose them in both places.
    Christ has given us many weapons to combat the godless culture we find ourselves in today. We have recourse to Him in prayer and in the Sacraments of the Church. There are those around us who are professing Catholics who can pray for us, and we can support one another. Christ also gave us His Blessed Mother and His Saints to intercede for us as well. As Saint Thomas says, “The saints impetrate what ever God wishes to take place through their prayers; and they pray for that which they deem will be granted through their prayers according to God’s will.” We have so much which has been given to us, which we must not ignore, lest we do it to our own peril. One weapon not often used today is the chaplet of Seven Sorrows. This chaplet has been brought to my attention over and over again in variety of ways over the past month or so. It was God’s way of telling me to make it a part of my daily prayer. I am hard-headed so it takes God hitting me over the head a few times before I get it! First I made a consecration to Our Lady Of Sorrows. Then each day I now pray the litany of Seven Sorrows and the prayers dedicated to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, given to us by Pope Pius VII, as well as the chaplet of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, which has its origins dating back to the 13th century. Of course the actual “sorrows” are rooted in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. These prayers are powerful, because they graft the passion of Our Lord and the sorrows of Our Blessed Mother into the fabric of our lives.

Pope Benedict XIII., on September 26th, 1724, granted an indulgence of two hundred days for every Our Father and every Hail Mary to those who, with sincere contrition, and having confessed, or firmly purposing to confess their sins, shall recite this Chaplet on any Friday, or on any day of Lent, on the Festival of the Seven Dolors, or within the Octave; and one hundred days on any other day of the year. Pope Clement XII added to these further,

1. A Plenary indulgence to those who shall have recited this Chaplet for a month every day - Confession, Communion and Prayers for the Church, required as usual.

2. An indulgence of one hundred years to all who should recite it on any day, having confessed their sins, with sincere sorrow, or at least firmly purposing to do so.

3. One hundred and fifty years to those who should recite it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Holidays of obligation, with Confession and Communion.

4. A Plenary indulgence once a year, on any day, to those who are accustomed to recite it four times a week, on condition of Confession, Communion, and the Recital of the Chaplet on the day of Communion.

5. Two hundred years' indulgence to all who recite it devoutly after Confession; and to all who carry it about them, and frequently recite it, ten years' indulgence every time they shall hear Mass, hear a sermon, or reciting Our Father, and seven Hail Mary's, shall perform any spiritual or corporal work of mercy, in honor of our Blessed Saviour, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or any Saint, their advocate.

Of course now the indulgences are not counted in days or years, but as either plenary or partial, but the theology behind it is the same. Simply put, sin damages the fabric of humanity, and indulgences help to repair that damage by infusing God’s grace into the the world by an approved prayer or action given to us by God through His Church. We can see that by the Popes granting these indulgences, that this devotion has the authority of the Church behind it. While I have never been overly zealous about the approved private revelations of the Marian apparitions, I take notice of them in a reserved yet serious manner. While we have the widely known approved apparitions of Lourdes and Fatima for example, we also have approved private revelations of Our Lady that are not as widely known such as the one in Kibeho. While I am not going to elaborate on these events in this article, it is worth taking note of what some of the messages that have been reported to have come from it, for they do communicate a reality as to the crisis of our present culture. Below are some of those messages which communicate the stark reality we find ourselves in, and the solution to it.

“We must meditate on the passion of Jesus and on the deep sorrow of his Mother.”

“The world has turned against God.  We must repent and ask for pardon."

“Repent, repent, repent!”, “Convert while there is still time.”

“The world conducts itself very badly,” “The world hastens to its ruin, it will fall into the

 “The world is rebellious against God, it commits too many sins, it has neither love nor peace.”

“If you do not repent and do not convert your hearts, you will fall into the abyss.”

“What I ask of you is repentance. If you recite this chaplet (Seven Sorrows), while meditating on it, you will then have the strength to repent. Today, many people do not know any more how to ask forgiveness.”

"We must be converted, we must pray and mortify ourselves. Satan tries to ruin us. God wants our prayers from the heart."

Despite whether or not you find the Kibeho apparitions credible, I doubt that any serious Catholic would deny that the above comments are anything short of depicting the stark reality we find ourselves in, and how we can get ourselves out. We receive a tremendous amount of grace when we say these prayers of the Seven Sorrows. The chaplet consists of saying the Our Father and the Hail Mary while meditating on the Seven Dolors. Of course the Our Father comes from the lips of Jesus Himself, and as Saint Brother Andre Bessette once said, “When you say to God, Our Father, he has his ear right next to your lips.” The Hail Mary, of course also rooted in Scripture, has been exclaimed by the Saints throughout the ages such as Saint Cyril of Alexandria for example, “Hail to thee Mary, Mother of God, to whom in towns and villages and in island were founded churches of true believers." It is a wonderful prayer which has its focus on Christ’s incarnation as well as the love and obedience of Our Blessed Mother to the will of Christ. It also asks for the intercession of Our Lady as well. Padre Pio spoke of the importance of Our Lady’s intercession for all Christians in blunt terms, “Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother.”

The Seven Dolors that are meditated upon are, The Prophecy of Simeon, The Flight Into Egypt, The Loss of the Child Jesus, Our Lady Meeting Jesus on Via Dolorosa, The Crucifixion of Our Lord, Our Lady Receiving the Body of Our Lord From the Cross, and the Burial of Our Lord. We meditate on these events, praying the Our Father and asking for Our Lady’s intercession. While we find ourselves living in this sorrowful age, it is most fitting that we pray this chaplet, if not every day, then maybe on Fridays, before Mass on Sunday or perhaps make it a part of your Lenten prayers. There is no shortage of the sorrows brought upon us by our sinful generation, and so the image of Our Sorrowful Mother is a powerful one for us, and it should drive us to living a more devout Christian life.

Link to the consecration to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows and the daily meditations.
Link to praying the actual Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows.

Nota Bene

    One final and important note. Although it is easy to focus on the sins of others, we must first look at our own. We cannot make reparation for others and advance the Gospel of Our Lord if we ourselves are steeped in sin. So we must make sure that we are living a holy life, always examining ourselves before God Almighty as to how we may have offended him, and then repent and make reparation for our sins. We weep first for our own sins and then for the sins of others. So we examine ourselves each day, and then pray for forgiveness. When necessary we make a trip to the confessional and receive forgiveness in the sacrament. Making ourselves present before Our Lord at Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of obligation are mandatory not optional, while we should be trying to go to Mass as often as we can. I would hope that practicing Catholics are doing all of these things otherwise we are not part of the solution to our societal woes, but part of the problem. This beautiful devotion to the Seven Sorrows is not one that is only directed at the sinful world and the salvation of others external to us, but it is directed at our own salvation first, and remember, our past sins have also contributed to the crisis of our age. So even when we pray for our sinful generation, remember, we are also praying for ourselves, because we are part of it. We do not point our fingers in arrogance at the sins of others, but we weep for them and offer reparation for them along with our own.

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