Lenten Poetry
     

Mother of Sorrows

She Shall Crush Thy Head

Communion of Reparation
(for Our Lady of Sorrows)

To the Sorrowing and
Immaculate Heart

Lady Most Pitiful

The Passion of Our Lady

The Passion of Mary

 

When Mary Weeps

To Mary Remembering

The Bond

Mary’s Good Friday

Mother!

The Sorrowful Mother

Stabat Mater (by Joachim Smet, O.Carm.)

Stabat Mater (by Jacapone Da Todi)

 
   
Mother of Sorrows  

My Son, could I have climbed this hill for You,
How willingly had I endured each stone:
Yet, I too struggled up steep Calvary;
You have not climbed alone!

Could I have borne the monstrous cross for You,
I would have carried it unto my death.
Though I could not, still I have felt its weight,
My Son, with every breath!

Oh, could I pluck these nails from Your loved flesh,
And driving them through mine, make them a part
Of my own body’s pain, I would! But Son,
I wear them in my heart!

Virginia Moan Evansem
St. Anthony Messenger
March 1958

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She Shall Crush Thy Head  

Gentle as the fall of a flake of snow,
Light as the kiss of a rose-petal,
About this baby’s first patterings
Naught portends enmities titantic
And universal destinies
And cataclysmic victories.
Nor is a maiden’s tread more ominous
Of such things
As she goes about her mother’s chores
Sweeping the cottage, plucking the flowers,
Tending her bees,
Of fondling, with wistful Israelitic hope,
Some neighbor’s new-born heir.

Emerging from an hour of prayer
One day in fertile spring, withal,
Her footfall echoes sudden fateful.
She has become heavy, this Virgin,
With the weight of God.
This Virgin’s step is suddenly portentous
Of mighty things,
Revealing that in converse mystic and divine
She has received the burden of a Word:

 

And Savior is His Name.
While she moves with the raptured caution
Of a woman who guards Another’s life,
The alarmed enemy and his creeping evil spawn
Recall divinely threatening words,
Spoken of old, in the beginning,
Amid the weeping ruins of a shattered paradise.
Remembering those words
about a woman and her seed,
They wonder if this woman be The Woman,
If her burden be That Word -
And they lie in wait
To bite her weighted heel.
Her Son and she walk much
Through village lanes, and later on
Through city streets,
And finally they climb a hill,
He bearing a cross (and no less she),
A weighty rood that makes their step
Shake the foundations of the earth,
Awaken the long-dead,
Split open the ageless rocks -
And crush the Serpent’s head.

Alexander Wyse, O.F.M. Catholic World -
Page 415. Volume 166. February 1948

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Communion of Reparation
(for Our Lady of Sorrows)

Great as the sea is thy sorrow
O wide expanse of lonely gray,
endless to sight
and deep beyond the sounding
of our shallow hearts,
how can we comfort thee?

Great as the sea, and silent
as a morning after storm.
O quietness
beside the shore’s wild wreckage,
O grief-worn waters,
what comfort can we bring?

O great like the sea, and profound!
O great, and as the sea, so stilled!
O Sorrow of Mary,
the infinite Heart of God alone
can comfort thee.

Sr. Mary Julian Baird, R.S.M.
Catholic World - Page 21. Volume 181.
April 1955

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To the Sorrowing and Immaculate Heart

Once again to Her Heart
Which thrills with compassion
more deep than the sea,
Which knows all my need,
which waiteth for me,
Which is balm to my sorest smart!

Once again to Her feet!
For oh! All the flowers of my life are for Her;
Who loves e’en Her lowliest worshipper,
Who is so transcendently sweet!

Once again, O my Queen,
Do I hurry in eager delight to thy side;
Thy love thy wan servant has satisfied,
Desiring no more than what has been!

Once again, O my Life,
Do I trembling fly to thy mother’s breast;
For there is my refuge, my fortress, my rest,
In the midst of Time’s furious strife.

Once again, O my Rose,
My mystical flower, rosy-red on Life’s bush,
Whose fragrant perfection, whose beauty’s fair flush,
Brings solace and charm and repose!

Once again, for the bell
Rings for shriving and counsel, for pureness and peace!
Once again that my soul may find richest release
From Sorrow’s dark, dreamy spell.

Once again, Queen of Grief,
The thought of thy sorrows drives sorrow away,
Brings blossoming hope and sunshine and May,
Brings infinite sweetest relief!

Walter Burgess

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Lady Most Pitiful

Lady most pitiful, Mother most mild!
Stoop to my frailty; nourish thy child.

Mother most beautiful, Lady most wise!
Solace my heavy heart; comfort mine eyes.

Lady of verity, Mother most kind!
Breathe on my weary soul; brighten my mind.

Mother most merciful, Lady of love!
Bless my desires and draw them above.

Lady of Sorrows and Mother of Men!
Turn thou my weakness. Oh, heal me again.

Elizabeth S. Royce Catholic World - Page 762.
Volume 123. September 1926

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The Passion of Our Lady

For the past three days she had been wandering, and following.
She followed the people.
She followed the events.
She seemed to be following a funeral.
But it was a living man’s funeral.
She followed like a follower.
Like a servant.
Like a weeper at a Roman funeral.
As if it had been her only occupation.
To weep.
That is what he had done to his mother.
Since the day when he had begun his mission.
You saw her everywhere.
With the people and a little apart from the people.
Under the porticoes, under the arcades, in drafty places.
In the temples, in the palaces.
In the streets.
In the yards and in the back-yards.
And she had also gone up to Calvary.
She too had climbed up Calvary.
A very steep hill.
And she did not even feel that she was walking.
She did not even feel that her feet were carrying her.
She too had gone up her Calvary.
She too had gone up and up
In the general confusion, lagging a little behind...
She wept and wept under a big linen veil.
A big blue veil.
A little faded.
She wept as will never be granted to a woman to weep.
As it will never be asked
Of a woman to weep on this earth.
Never at any time.
What was very strange was that everyone respected her.
People greatly respect the parents of the condemned.
They even said: Poor woman.
And at the same time they struck at her son.
Because man is like that.
The world is like that.
Men are what they are and you never can change them.
She did not know that, on the contrary, he had come to change man.
That he had come to change the world.
She followed and wept.
Everybody respected her.
Everybody pitied her.
They said: Poor woman.
Because they weren’t bad at heart.
They fulfilled the Scriptures.
They honored, respected, and admired her grief.
They didn’t make her go away,
they pushed her back only a little with special attentions
Because she was the mother of the condemned.
They thought: It’s the family of the condemned.
They even said so in a low voice.
They said it among themselves
With a secret admiration.

 

She followed and wept, and didn’t understand very well.
But she understood quite well that the government was against her boy.
And that is a very bad business.
She understood that all the governments were together against her boy.
The government of the Jews and the government of the Romans.
The government of judges and the government of priests.
The government of soldiers and the government of parsons.
He could never get out of it.
Certainly not.
What was strange was that all derision was heaped on him.
Not on her at all.
There was only respect for her.
For her grief.
They didn’t insult her.
On the contrary.
People even refrained from looking at her too much.
All the more to respect her.
So she too had gone up.
Gone up with everybody else.
Up to the very top of the hill.
Without even being aware of it.
Her legs had carried her and she did not even know it.
She too had made the Way of the Cross.
The fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross.
Were there fourteen stations?
Were there really fourteen stations?
She didn’t know for sure.
She couldn’t remember.
Yet she had not missed one.
She was sure of that.
But you can always make a mistake.
In moments like that your head swims.
Everybody was against him.
Everybody wanted him to die.
It is strange.
People who are not usually together.
The government and the people.
That was awful luck.
When you have someone for you and someone against you,
sometimes you can get out of it.
You can scramble out of it.
But he wouldn’t.
Certainly he wouldn’t.
When you have everyone against you.
But what had he done to everyone?

I’ll tell you.
He had saved the world.

Charles Peguy (1873-1914)
Translated from the French
by Julian Green Thérèse, M.
I Sing of a Maiden:
The Mary Book of Verse
New York: Macmillan Company, 1947

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The Passion of Mary

O Lady Mary, thy bright crown
Is no mere crown of majesty;
For with the reflex of His own
Resplendent thorns Christ circled thee.

The red rose of this passion-tide
Doth take a deeper hue from Thee,
In the five Wounds of Jesus dyed,
And in thy bleeding thoughts, Mary.

The soldier struck a triple stroke
That smote thy Jesus on the tree:
He broke the Heart of hearts, and broke
The Saint’s and Mother’s hearts in thee.

Thy Son went up the angel’s ways.
His Passion ended; but, ah me!
Thou found’st the road of further days
A longer Way of Calvary.

On the hard cross of hope deferred,
Thou hungst in loving agony,
Until the mortal-dreaded word
Which chills our mirth, spake mirth to thee.

The angel Death, from this cold tomb
Of life, did roll the stone away;
And He thou bearest in thy womb
Caught thee at last into the day-
Before the living throne of whom
The lights of heaven burning pray.

O thou who dwellest in the day,
Behold, I pace amidst the gloom;
Darkness is ever, round my way
With little space for sunbeam-room.

Yet Christian sadness is divine,
Even as thy patient sadness was:
The salt tears in our life’s dark wine
Fell in it from the saving Cross.

Bitter the bread of our repast;
Yet doth a sweet bitter leaven:
Our sorrow is the shadow cast
Around it by the light of heaven!
O Light in light, shine down from heaven!

Francis Thompson Robert, Cyril.
Mary Immaculate:
God’s Mother and Mine.
Poughkeepsie, New York: Marist Press, 1946.

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When Mary Weeps

When Mary weeps, her mother heart
Is full to overflowing:
When Mary weeps, pain’s piercing dart
Stabs Him beyond all knowing,
Who is by sinners crucified,
Blasphemed, forsaken, and denied.

When Mary weeps, God’s holy wrath
Is kindling cruel fires;
When Mary weeps, poor mankind’s path
Leads through war’s blood-soaked mires
And makes all human mothers moan
In love and pity for their own.

 

When Mary weeps, it’s time to pray
To have our sins forgiven;
When Mary weeps, each night and day
By sorrow must be riven
Until His and her children will
Once more seek peace on Calvary’s hill.
When Mary weeps, we all must try
To dry her tears of sorrow;
When Mary weeps, we too must cry
To glimpse a brighter morrow,
When her Son’s name is recognized
And all in love adore the Christ.

Fr. Frederick Lynk
Robert, Cyril. Mary Immaculate: God’s Mother and Mine.
Poughkeepsie, New York: Marist Press, 1946.

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To Mary Remembering

His Agony
Where were you in that hour? Had you been there
That hour had not been: the evening air
Filled with your consolation, could He gain
The inmost of the citadel of pain?
His garments wet - with blood that was your own
As well as Blood of God - He went alone
Into that darkness. You upon the brink
Uplifted sinless hands, you might not drink
Wine of such vintage as was pressed for Him,
But you did gather drops upon the rim
Of that vast chalice. Dare we longer stay
Beneath the olives? Teach us how to pray!

The Pillar
He was your little Son.
Often, when work was done
And you sat tired in the gloom,
He played beside you and your room
Was just a home.
You could forget (I know not) God was come?
How often you had seen Him on the road,
Your son - a man- the load
Of every day upon Him as the rest.
He was your God, but all the time your best,
Your heart’s beloved, and your son
Your only one.
And did you see Him thus
Not one place whole - for us?

A Thorn-Crown
And did you see Him thus
Not one place whole - for us?
You saw Him when with thorns they crowned Him king.
But still you take our thorn-stemmed offering,
Pulling such petals as have perfume dim
Or any sweetness, lifting them to Him.
The Cross - Bearer
You were a woman and must stand apart.
Not on torn shoulders - in your heart
You knew the roughness of the wood:
You could not help Him as the stranger could.

And, though He met you face to face,
He might not stay His pace
But hurried on to die,
Passing you by.
But you, you followed still
Content to tread the pathway of His Will.

His Death
You stood with silence round you, though the crowd
Railed with insistent voices, mocking, loud,
Most pitiful who knew not what they did.
You heeded only Him, until he bid
You take us for your own. You listened then
And knew the cries and blasphemies of men
And took us for your children. On that hill
You bore us in compassion, fold us still.
We know not what we do, we do not know...
Indeed we know not! Do not leave us go.
Sin is so sad, so grim a slavery,
Your sorrow knew not such blank misery.
Are you afeared - from us that nailed Him there
That He will turn away? You heard his prayer,
A while ago, "O thief!" you heard Him say,
"O friend! You shall see Paradise today!

Margaret Mackenzie Robert, Cyril. Mary Immaculate: God’s Mother and Mine. Poughkeepsie, New York, Marist Press 1946.

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The Bond

Mary, you who tasted grief
When Christ went up the Calvary way,
Stretch forth your hand in sympathy
With mothers of today.

You gave your Son, a sacrifice
That souls in bondage might go free;
We mothers offer up our sons
To purge the world of tyranny.

When darkness ruled men’s heart you gave
Your Son that light should come through Him;
We give our son’s to freedom’s cause
That its pure flame shall not grow dim.
Sweet mother of the hill-side cross,
You bore its crushing weight alone;
Help us bear our crosses now,
As bravely as you bore your own!

Inez Clark Thorson
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady’s Praise in Poetry.
Poughkeepsie, New York: Marist Press, 1944.

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Mary’s Good Friday

O blessed Mother!
Filled with compassion,
Thy heart in breaking
At His cruel passion.

Alone, thou did stand
Neath His painful cross,
And in thy pure heart
Didst mourn thy great Loss.

His most precious blood
On Mary did fall,
Life everlasting
He gave to us all.

His body weakened
His Spirit soared high,
Mary, the Mother,
Watched her Son die.

Helene Baumer
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady’s Praise in Poetry.
Poughkeepsie, New York: Marist Press, 1944.

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Mother!

In a garden Mary stood when Springtime’s radiant beauty
Wrapped the world in sunlight and filled her heart with joy.
Down the garden-path there ran a slender little Figure
Bringing her a gift of love - He, her God, her Boy!
Mary opened wide her arms to take her sheaf of lilies:
"Mother!" called her little Son, and never had she heard
In the angel’s message, in brooklet, or in bird-song,
Music half so lovely as that one tender word.

On a hill-top Mary stood one sadder, later Springtime.
All the earth was wrapped in gloom beneath that
blood-stained Cross;
Memories thronged about her, memories of His Childhood,
Adding to her loneliness, her pain, her sense of loss.
Mary opened wide her arms but His were nailed securely
"Mother!" breathed her dying Son, and never had she heard
In her sword-pierced heart that knew the very depths of sorrow
Anything approaching the pathos of that word.

"Mother! Mother Mary!" a million hearts are calling,
"Open wide again those arms, and in their warm embrace,
Take the children Jesus gave you on that darkened hill-top
When He named you Mother of the sin-stained human race."

Sr. Maryanna Robert, Cyril. Our Lady’s Praise in Poetry. Poughkeepsie, New York: Marist Press, 1944.

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The Sorrowful Mother

Where soft winds rustle through dark-green woods
And thrushes warble in gayest moods,
There stands a dear little moss-grown shrine,
And in it sits silent the Mother Divine,
And holds on her lap her dear dead Boy,
Who ever had been her glory and joy.

A thousand pilgrims from far and near
Climb up the mountain and think while here
Of Him who walked to Golgotha’s height,
And leave in peace, refreshed by the sight
Of Christ and His mother who here alone
Are fondly pictured in snow-white stone.

I, too, went up to the mountain’s brow,
Before that Madonna’s face to bow,
And feel the deep peace that broods so still
On wall and ceiling, on pew and sill;
Where even the serpents and dragons drear
Must humbly serve to spread peace and cheer.

To her Son’s body upon her knees
I laid my soul with such words as these:
"O Mother of Sorrows, pray, comfort my heart
And give me thy blessing before I depart."
And as I went down from the mountain’s crest,
The thrushes of peace sang within my breast.

Fr. Frederick Lynk
Robert, Cyril. Our Lady’s Praise in Poetry .
Poghkeepsie, New York: Marist Press, 1944.


 

 

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Stabat Mater

Even as when the slain sun falls in the purple West,
The moon stands weeping, white and ashen
So when His wounded head drops heavy on His breast,
Behold, the sad, pale face of her compassion.

Joachim Smet O.Carm.

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Stabat Mater  

By the cross of expiation
The Mother stood, and kept her station,
Weeping for her Son and Lord:
With the nails his hands were riven;
Through her heart the sword was driven,
Simeon’s dread, predicted sword.

Oh, that blessed one grief-laden,
Blessed Mother, blessed Maiden,
Mother of the All-holy One;
Oh, that silent, ceaseless mourning,
Oh, those dim eyes never turning
From that wondrous, suffering Son.

Who is of nature human
Tearless that could watch the Woman?
Hear unmoved that Mother’s moan?
Who, unchanged in shape and colour,
Who could mark that Mother’s dolour,
Weeping with her Son alone?

For his people’s sins the All-holy
There she saw, a victim lowly,
Bleed in torments, bleed and die:
Saw the Lord’s Anointed taken;
Saw her Child in death forsaken;
Heard his last expiring cry.

Fount of love and sacred sorrow,
Mother, may my spirit borrow
Sadness from thy holy woe;
May it love - on fire within me -
Christ, my God, till great love win me
Grace to please him here below.

 

Those five wounds of Jesus smitten,
Mother, in my heart be written
Deeply as in thine they be;
Thou my Savior’s cross who bearest,
Thou my Son’s rebuke who sharest,
Let me share them both with thee.

In the passion of my maker
Be my sinful soul partaker;
Let me weep till death with thee;
Unto me this boon be given,
By thy side, like thee bereaven.
To stand beneath the atoning tree.

Virgin holiest, Virgin purest,
Of that anguish thou endurest
Make me bear with thee my part;
Of his passion bear the token
In a spirit bowed and broken,
Bear his death within my heart.

May his wounds both wound and heal me;
His blood enkindle, cleanse, anneal me;
Be his cross my hope and stay:
Virgin, when the mountains quiver,
From that flame which burns for ever,
Shield me on the judgement-day.

Christ, when he that shaped me calls me,
When advancing death appals me,
Through her prayer the storm make calm:
When to dust my dust returneth
Save a soul to thee that yearneth;
Grant it thou the crown and palm.

Jacapone Da Todi (1228-1306) Translated from
the Latin by A. De Vere Thérèse, M. I Sing
of a Maiden: The Mary Book of Verse .
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1947.

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