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Monday, January 30, 2006

The Way of the Mother

The Way of the Mother consists of seven stations, very much like Way of the Cross, depicting the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. The Franciscan Tertiaries of the Immaculate are encouraged to pray this devotion every Saturday.

The Stations of the Way of the Mother
1. Presentation in the Temple, Simeon's prophecy
2. Flight into Egypt
3. Three Days' Loss
4. Meeting Christ on the way to Calvary
5. The Crucifixion
6. Pieta (The lance wound to Christ)
7. Entombment

I mentioned my ongoing attempt to make my own "Way of the Mother" a few months ago. During my search for artwork, I made a surprising discovery. (The picture is Giotto's Coronation of the Virgin.) I found it very difficult to find art images of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple and I especially found it difficult to find a picture to represent the Three Days' Loss. The images I eventually discovered were painted by Giotto and they are all found in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. The artist Giotto was a Third Order Franciscan, born in 1266 and worked in the Basilica of St. Francis in 1300. (He is actually a very important artist in art history. He is one of the first to show dimensionality in his figures. Before Giotto, icons reign. You can see in the angels reverently kneeling the impression of thick, heavy legs. Giotto's figures have the dimensionality of statues.) Beside Giotto's importance in art history, I think his work demonstrates the Marian devotion of the early Franciscans. Many artists have painted scenes of the life of Christ. But, in my search to represent the "Way of the Mother", I found Giotto supplied me with all the art I needed. I found this an interesting discovery. Either by considering Giotto as a Third Order Franciscan or that the work was commissioned by the earliest members of the Franciscan order, or that the art would be used to decorate the Church in which Holy Father St. Francis is buried, any of these reasons and all of these reasons highlight the importance of Marian devotion to the early Franciscans.

Another surprising discovery. When searching for Presentation in the Temple and Finding in the Temple, the search engine at Web Gallery of Art, returned a slew of Presentation of OUR LADY in the Temple. My distinct impression was that Our Lady's presentation was the more popular choice among artists and patrons. How often in Christian circles do we hear about Our Lady's Presentation in the Temple? A feast day celebrated on November 21. However, in the history of art, among patrons of art who paid money to have these treasures painted, the Presentation of Our Lady at the age of three in the Temple is a favorite subject. ("Christ among the Doctors" is a better way to search, I later realized.)

For my set of "The Way of the Mother", I ended up buying a used copy of The Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi byElvio Lunghi (Scala, 1996). I cut the pictures from the book and Mod Podged them to wooden plaques I spray painted bronze.

I still need to buy some metal hooks to hang them. They are presently still sitting on my bookshelf, but they are useful for praying The Way of the Mother.

The Franciscans of the Immaculate have a shrine in Italy which features a Way of the Mother. The website is in Italian, but the pictures are stunning.

The following quote describing the Way of the Mother is taken from the Directory of Popular Piety.

(Since I found it difficult to link to numbers 136-7, I copied them here. The whole document is worth looking at from time to time. I especially like to look at Part Two; Guidelines for the Harmonization of Popular Piety with the Liturgy. This is a great list of Catholic practices.)

136. As Christ and Our Lady of Dolours were associated in God's saving plan (Lk 2, 34-35), so too they are associated in the Liturgy and popular piety.
As Christ was the "man of sorrows" (Is 53, 3) through whom it pleased God to have "reconciled all things through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross" (Col 1, 20), so too, Mary is "the woman of sorrows" whom God associated with his Son as mother and participant in his Passion (socia passionis).
Since the childhood of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary's life was entirely lived out under the sign of the sword (cf, Lk 2, 35). Christian piety has signalled out seven particular incidents of sorrow in her life, known as the "seven sorrows" of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Modelled on the Via Crucis, the pious exercise of the Via Matris dolorosae, or simply the Via Matris, developed and was subsequently approved by the Apostolic See(140). This pious exercise already existed in embryonic form since the sixteenth century, while its present form dates from the nineteenth century. Its fundamental intuition is a reflection on the life of Our Lady from the prophecy of Simeon (cf. Lk 2, 34-35), to the death and burial of her Son, in terms of a journey in faith and sorrow: this journey is articulated in seven "stations" corresponding to the "seven dolours" of the Mother of Our Saviour.
137. This pious exercise harmonises well with certain themes that are proper to the lenten season. Since the sorrows of Our Lady are caused by the rejection of her Son (cf. John 1,11; Lk 2, 1-7; 2, 34-35; 4, 28-29; Mt 26, 47-56; Acts 12, 1-5), the Via Matris constantly and necessarily refers to the mystery of Christ as the suffering servant (cf. Is 52, 13-53, 12). It also refers to the mystery of the Church: the stations of the Via Matris are stages on the journey of faith and sorrow on which the Virgin Mary has preceded the Church, and in which the Church journeys until the end of time.
The highest expression of the Via Matris is the Pietà which has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for Christian art since the middles ages.

The painting
(b. 1639, Genova, d. 1709, Roma)

Father Stefano Manelli's
Meditations for the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

For each Sorrow recite one Our Father, seven Hail Marys, 1 Glory be and the ejaculatory prayer:

"O Mary, my sweetest good, make me feel Your sorrows in my heart."

I. The Presentation in the Temple
(LK 2:34,35)

“Mary Most Holy offers Jesus to God the Father. She offers the pure, holy and immaculate Victim and with Him She offers Herself, called to be the Coredemptrix of the world: for this reason Jesus will be the crucified Victim and She will have Her soul pierced by the’sword’ of sorrow for all the sins of the world.”

II. Our Lady flees into Egypt to save the Infant Jesus from death.
(MT 2:13-14)

“The sorrowful drama of Our Blessed Lady’s exile is a sustaining grace for all of us ‘poor banished children of Eve’ who are called to pass from this world of exile into our heavenly homeland that we reach by the way of the cross, sustained and comforted by Her.”

III. Our Lady loses Jesus and finds Him after three days in the Temple of Jerusalem
(LK 2:48-51)

“Mary Most Holy suffers a terrible anguish with the loss of Jesus in Jerusalem. She searches for Her Son for three days and finds Him anew in the temple. To misplace Jesus, to lose Jesus: this is the worst disgrace that could possibly happen to us because He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; therefore we must seek Him immediately and find Him anew in the temple, in the House of the Lord, approaching by way of the sacraments of Confession and Communion.”

IV. Our Lady meets Her Son Jesus along the way to Calvary

O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow. For he hath made a vintage of me, as the Lord spoke in the day of his fierce anger. Therefore do I weep, and my eyes run down with water, because the comforter, the relief of my soul, is far from me. (Lam 1:12,6)

“Mary Most Holy encounters Jesus along the road to Calvary and traverses the painful path with Him to Golgotha, carrying in Her Heart the cross of Jesus as a ‘sword’ which penetrates Her soul ever more deeply for the redemption of sinful humanity. Let us also follow Jesus with Our Lady of Sorrows by carrying the cross of our salvation.

V. The Crucifixion
(John 19:25-27)

“Our Lady of Sorrows is present at the crucifixion and death of Jesus and suffers in Her Mother’s Heart all the torments of Jesus’ body nailed to the cross, His lips given gall to drink, and His side thrust through. Here the ‘sword’ of sorrow pierces completely through Mary’s soul, but She offers everything in constant union with Her Redeemer Son as the universal Coredemptrix of salvation. She desires to imprint the image of the Crucified in our souls.”

VI. Our Lady of Sorrows receives Jesus into Her arms as He is taken down from the Cross.
(John 19:34-37)

Mary Most Holy Receives Jesus into Her arms when He is taken down from the cross. This is the image of the Pieta. But it is also the image of the priestly motherhood of the universal Coredemptrix who offers the Divine Victim to the Father, the salvific Host for all men of every time and place. O merciful mother, take us too into Thy arms in order to offer us to God.

VII. Our Lady places the dead body of Jesus in the sepulcher.
(John 19:40-42)

Mary Most Holy places the body of Jesus in the sepulcher in order to await His resurrection with invincible faith. The sepulcher of Jesus is one of life and glory, and so shall the sepulcher be of every redeemed person who welcomes the Redeemer, while the sepulcher of one who refuses Christ shall be one of eternal perdition. The Mother of Sorrows places us too in the sepulcher of Jesus in order to rise one day like Him to eternal life.

The Compassion of the Mother in the Passion of the Christ
By Father Angelo Mary Geiger, FI