Friday, December 9th is the anniversary of the death of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. One of Archbishop Sheen’s favorite prayers was the rosary. Sheen said “Love is never monotonous in the uniformity of its expression. The mind is infinitely variable in its language, but the heart is not. The heart of a man, in the face of the woman he loves, is too poor to translate the infinity of his affection into a different word. So the heart takes one expression, "I love you," and in saying it over and over again, it never repeats. It is the only real news in the universe. That is what we do when we say the Rosary, we are saying to God, the Trinity, to the Incarnate Savior, to the Blessed Mother: "I love you, I love you, I love you." Each time it means something different because, at each decade, our mind is moving to a new demonstration of the Savior's love.”
With this in mind we ask that all of our “friends of Sheen” pray the rosary on December 9th with the intention that the cause moves forward. You could not give a better gift to the memory of Archbishop Sheen than to pray the rosary! I am including the reflections sheen wrote for the Sorrowful mysteries as his anniversary falls on a Friday.
United with you in prayer,
Msgr. Stanley Deptula
THE AGONY IN THE GARDEN
As a kind person in the face of pain seeks to relieve the sufferings of his friend, so does moral kindness in the face of evil take on the punishment which evil deserves. Every mother would willingly, if she could, bear the aches of her child. A father will pay the debts of his wayward son as if they were his own. Our Lord, though guilty of no sin, nevertheless in His agony in the garden permitted Himself to feel the inner effects of sin, as on the cross He experienced also the external effects of sin. These internal effects were sadness, fear, and a sense of loneliness. “I looked for one that would grieve together with Me, and I found none.”
He permits His head to feel blasphemies as if His lips had pronounced them; His hands to feel the sins of theft, as if He had stolen; His body to sense the guilt of defilement, as if it were the cause. Innocence knows sin better than the guilty, because the guilty are already part of it.
Sin is in the blood. The drunkard, the libertine, the tyrant have registered sin not only in their souls, but in their brains, the cells of their body, and the very expressions of their faces. If, therefore, sin is in the blood, to atone for it, blood must be poured out. Our Lord never intended that any other blood than His own should be shed in expiation for sins. Because men have not invoked the blood of Christ for their sins, they are now at war shedding one another’s blood.
The agony in the garden is not a triumph of the plans and the schemes of betrayers and enemies, but is permitted by divine decree. “This is your hour,” our Lord said to His enemies. Evil has its hour, but God has His day!
THE SCOURGING AT THE PILLAR
Seven centuries before, it had been foretold that our Lord would be so wounded for our sins that we would have “thought Him, as it were, a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted.” The time has come for the fulfillment of that prophecy. Omnipotence is bound to a pillar in the hour of His death, as He was bound in swaddling clothes in the very hour of His birth.
The scourging at the pillar must have been terrible, because whenever our Lord foretold His passion, He always made particular reference to His scourging, as if to emphasize the outrage of His suffering. St. Peter, after the Resurrection, recalling how he stood in the outer court listening to the fall of thongs upon His flesh, and yet heard our Lord not complain, wrote: “Who when He was reviled, did not
revile; when He suffered, did not threaten.” The scourging is an act of reparation for the excessive cult of the body. “The body is for the Lord.” In expiation for self-indulgence, His body, as the second Ark of the Covenant, is disclosed to profane eyes, as the Spouse of souls now becomes the plaything of mockers. How many strokes He received, no one knows. The prophet foretold that He would be so scourged that the bones of His body would be numbered. We are saved by other stars and stripes than
those on the flag; namely, by the stars and stripes of Christ, by whose stars we are illumined — by whose stripes we are healed.
THE CROWNING WITH THORNS
As the scourging was the reparation for the sins of the flesh, so the crowning with thorns was the atonement for the sins of the mind — for the atheists who wish there were no God, for the doubters whose evil lives becloud their thinking, for the egotists, centered on themselves.
The soldiers cursed as the thorns pricked their fingers. Then they cursed the Lord, as they drove the crown of thorns into His head, as a mockery of a royal diadem. Into His hands they placed a reed, the symbol of His kingdom, presumed to be false and unstable like the reed. His flesh, already hanging from Him like purple rags, is now covered with a purple robe to ridicule His claim to kingship of hearts and
nations. Blindfolding Him, they struck Him, asking Him to prophesy, or tell who it was that delivered the blow. They then bowed down before Him in mock reverence, spitting in His face, that all the subsequent Mindszentys, Stepinacs, and martyrs of the world might have courage in their hour of martyrdom.
In this Mystery is verified the truth of our Saviour’s warning: “If the world hates you, be sure that it hated Me before it learned to hate you. If you belonged to the world, the world would know you for its own and love you; it is because you do not belong to the world, because I have singled you out from the midst of the world, that the world hates you.” He who expects to preserve His faith without being
mocked by the world is either weak in it, or else not so bold in goodness as to draw upon himself the mocking insults of another purple robe and a torturing circle of thorns.
THE CARRYING OF THE CROSS
Any cross would be easy to bear if we could only tailor it to fit ourselves. Our Lord’s cross was not made by Him, but for Him. Crosses and burdens are thrust upon us. Our acceptance makes them personal. Our Lord even said that there would be at least seven crosses a week: “Take up your cross daily and follow Me.”
Crosses are of two kinds: pure ones, which come from the outside, such as pain, persecution, and ridicule; and inner, or impure crosses, which come as the result of our sins, such as sadness, despair, and unhappiness. These latter crosses can be avoided. They are made by contradicting the will of God. The vertical bar of the cross stands for God’s will; the horizontal bar stands for our wills. When one crosses the other, we have the cross.
Our Lord never promised that we would be without a cross; He only promised that we would never be overcome by one. St. Peter so loved the cross that when the time came for his execution he asked to be crucified upside down.
May He who was found guilty of no other crime than that of the excess of love make us hate the load of sin that made His cross. The whole cross borne in union with His will and following in His footsteps is easier to bear than the splinters against which we rebel.
Our Lord spent 30 years of His life obeying, three years teaching, three hours redeeming! But how did He redeem? Suppose a golden chalice is stolen from an altar and beaten into a large ash tray. Before that gold can be returned to the altar, it must be thrown into a fire, where the dross is burned away;
then the chalice must be recast, and finally blessed and restored to its holy use.
Sinful man is like that chalice which was delivered over to profane uses. He lost his God- like resemblance and his high destiny as a childof God. So our blessed Lord took unto Himself a human nature, making it stand for all of us, plunged it into the fires of Calvary to have the dross of sin burned and purged away. Then, by rising from the dead, He became the new head of the new humanity, according to which we are all to be patterned.
The cross reveals that unless there is a Good Friday in our lives, there will never be an Easter Sunday. Unless there is a crown of thorns, there will never be the halo of light. Unless there is the scourged body, there will never be a glorified one. Death to the lower self is the condition of resurrection to the higher self.
The world says to us, as it said to Him on the cross: “Come down, and we will believe!” But if He had come down, He never would have saved us. It is human to come down; it is divine to hang there. A broken heart, O Saviour . of the world, is love’s best cradle! Smite my own, as Moses did the rock, that Thy love may enter in!