The Devotion to the Passion
by Hyacinth Hage and Nicholas Joseph Ward, 1910
"Let the meditations generally be about the divine attributes and perfections, and also about the mysteries of the life, passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, from which all religious perfection and sanctity takes its rule and increase." Such is the commencement of the chapter on mental prayer in our rule.
God himself could find no more excellent way to manifest His attributes and perfections, and above all His love for man, than by the passion and death of Jesus Christ; and man can find no more powerful motive than this to avoid sin, to practice virtue and to love his God.
"The Passion was the ordinary subject of Gabriel's meditations," writes his director; "but he did not rest satisfied with a few superficial considerations and affections; he entered into it in such a manner as to be penetrated with the reasons for which Jesus suffered and died, investing himself with His sentiments and motives, especially His infinite love; and to render these meditations practically useful, he considered in particular those virtues of which our suffering Lord gives us such bright examples, bringing home to himself their circumstances and divine perfection. In the light of these considerations, Gabriel humbled himself for his faults and shortcomings, conceived a high esteem and love of virtue, encouraged himself to practice it, forming at the same time the strongest resolutions. These he carried away in his heart, kept them continually before his mind, and tried to incorporate into his daily life."
Thus the passion of the Son of God became deeply engraved upon his heart, so that a mere glance at the crucifix would instantly recall the considerations, affections and resolutions of his prayer, and thus too, he conformed his life ever more and more to the life of Jesus. Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi sit semper in cordibus nostris: this was his motto, symbolized by the Sign that we wear on our breast. "May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ be ever in our hearts!" Truly was it impressed on his! No conversation pleased him if not seasoned with the memory of our suffering Lord, " Gesu Appassionato" as the expression runs in his native tongue. Truly could he have spoken of himself in the words of the apostle: "I judged not myself to know anything among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Cor. ii. 2.)
"From the commencement of his religious life, when he began to meditate seriously on this subject, the servant of God applied all the powers of his soul to it, so that, as F. Bernard deposes, it seemed as if his mind could fix itself on nothing else, and as if the love and gratitude of his heart could be centred on nothing else. It was enough merely to allude to Christ's sufferings to make his fervent spirit burst into sudden flame, like flax when touched with fire. He would at once begin to speak with wonderful fluency and enthusiasm, and this he would keep up for a considerable time. At such times our companions, who before had been conversing among themselves, would as by a common impulse turn to Gabriel, and captivated by his extraordinary and touching words, listen eagerly to him as he spoke of our duty of mourning over the sacred passion of Jesus, in union with His Blessed Mother." Often, too, did he call their attention to their distinctive obligation as Passionists "to promote according to their ability, devotion to the sufferings and death of our Blessed Redeemer in the hearts of the faithful." A few times only, he was chosen to deliver a little discourse in the church attached to our retreat, and then he plainly showed to all, his zeal and fervor to the great spiritual edification and profit of his hearers: but it was not often given him to promote this grand work in public, daily however he earnestly besought our Lord to assist all those that advanced this salutary devotion.
Even in His glory, our Blessed Saviour exhibits the wounds He received in His crucifixion as so many trophies of His love, for the contemplation of saints and angels; and such is His desire that on earth too, all men should piously remember them, that He left us the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood as a perpetual commemoration of His death. When assisting at Mass our Gabriel found his delight in devout meditations on the Passion, together with fervent prayers. In his visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and in Holy Communion one thought was predominant in his mind: "He who is here, suffered and died for me!" During the hours spent daily in meditation in the shadow of the tabernacle, one thought was ever welling up from his heart: "He who suffered and died for me is here!"
The Sacrament of the Altar was then for him truly what Christ desired it to be, the living commemoration of the Passion.
There was yet another means to the same end, dear to the heart of Gabriel; one which the Church of God has ever conspicuously placed both in life and in death before the eyes of her children: the crucifix. "They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn ;" (Zach. xii. 11) " and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself." (John xii. 32.) "Whilst they are in their cells," say our regulations, "let the religious keep the crucifix before their eyes, and often take refuge in its sacred wounds and accustom their hearts to send forth frequent darts of love toward their sovereign Good." Gabriel fully entered into the spirit of this regulation; for he kept his crucifix on his table by the side of his book, or even held it in his hand: and so frequently did he press it to his lips, that he actually wore it away. It was principally at the foot of his crucifix that he spent those few minutes of meditation before spoken of; his first thought in the morning was Jesus Crucified; with His image closely pressed to his heart he fell asleep at night; while reciting the divine office in choir he had continually before his eyes a devout little picture of the crucifixion, joined to which was a still smaller one of the Virgin of Dolors.
For Gabriel, the crucifix became the book of life; therein he studied the mystery of a crucified God, humility, patience and love supreme; from it he imbibed a preference for poverty, humiliation and suffering, thus "Bearing about in his body the mortification of Jesus." In the words of his biographer, "Gabriel's soul was like an altar on which was continually offered some act of interior mortification or exterior penance," growing thereby into the likeness of Him who was "as a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of his people." This is the explanation of those excesses and extravagances (as the world would style them) which we adverted to when speaking of his poverty and mortification, his charity and humility, his regularity and obedience. The young worldling of Spoleto had learned from the cross to love and even seek to be despised, that he might the more easily attain to religious perfection. This asceticism, however, is not peculiar to the Passionist rule: it is the pith of all Christian spirituality ever since the days of the apostles. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God debased Himself . . . humbled Himself . . even unto the death of the cross." (Phil. ii. 5, 8.)
Indulgenced Devotion to St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows
The faithful, who devoutly recite Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be, adding the invocation, "Saint Gabriel, pray for me," before a representation of St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, may gain an Indulgence of 300 days.
(From the 1943 Raccolta)