Day 1 – September 8
As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows, the principal Marian feast of the Passionist Congregation, we reflect together on Mary’s place in our Passionist spirituality. This evening we begin by going back in spirit to the fall of 1721 when our Holy Founder was a young man being anointed by the Holy Spirit as the founder of what would become the Passionist Congregation.
Let us turn our eyes toward the basilica of St. Mary Major’s Basilica in Rome, where high above the altar in the Marian Chapel is encased the famous icon of the Madonna and Child. All alone before the altar we see a lone figure clad in black. A young man from the north of Italy kneels in silent prayer. Impelled by anxiety and doubt, he casts himself into the arms of the Immaculate Mother of Jesus, confident of finding in her most loving heart an answer to his ardent prayer, and a refuge from the assaults of the devil which beset him on every side.
Paul Daneo confides to the Heart of Mary himself and the Congregation she has asked him to found. Into her hands he makes a vow to promote with all his strength devotion to the Passion of her Son. How he will fulfill this vow is left to her. She had appeared to him, clothed as he is now. Of that he is more certain than of the rough weave that meets his touch as his hand passes along his sleeve. From now on it would be up to her. He has placed his future and that of his Institute forever in her care. The Queen of Martyrs is Queen of his Congregation.
In 1948, at the request of the Superior General of the Congregation, Passionists all over the world consecrated themselves to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, hailing her as Queen of Martyrs and Queen of the Passionist Congregation. This is the same Consecration Prayer that we renew each year on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In the Consecration we proclaim that “we are the sons and daughters of the Congregation…who glory in hailing you, O Mary, in a very special sense, our Mother and our Queen….” This is a splendid fulfillment of that dark day in St Mary Major’s when our Holy Founder knelt before the icon of Mary and in blind faith confided to her Heart the Congregation he was to found.
Every Passionist will want to understand more fully why Mary is Queen of the Passionist Congregation in a very special sense. To do so we must consider some of the theological reasons for Mary’s Queenship, and then reflect on Mary as inspiration for the Passionist Congregation, and as its Mother and Model. This we will do as we honor the mystery of her Sorrows and her loving compassion for her Son throughout the Septenary.
During this Septenary, may the following petitions of our Consecration to Mary’s Heart be fulfilled in each of us:
Hide each one of us in your maternal heart which was pierced by the sword of most acute sorrow in the Passion; never permit us to leave it again. Make our hearts like yours; make us love prayer, solitude and poverty! Above all, impress the wounds of Jesus and your sorrows upon our hearts so that by word and by example we may be able to stir up our Christian people to remember them devoutly!