January 20, 2019

The Seventh Saturday: The Second Sorrowful Mystery - The Scourging of Jesus

Gospel Readings

MEDITATION

1. Jesus before his judges. My soul, journey along these sorrowful roads your Father travels upon, your loving Jesus, in these hours of his atrocious afflictions.

Slapped in the house of Annas, He then passed into that of Caiphas where He was mocked, declared a blasphemer, an offender deserving death. He was then shut in a prison and there, until dawn, abandoned to the scorn, spittle and blows of insolent soldiers.

At break of day He was dragged through the streets, then handed over to Pilate and Herod by his judges. By Herod He was considered mad, and as such dressed in white and exposed to the ridicule and sneers of a seduced crowd.

My soul, admire your Jesus, ever humble, ever patient; He allows himself to be led like an innocent lamb, where He is to be tormented by humanity’s malice and Satan’s fury. Consider how he remains silent before the shouts, the slander and the scorn. And Jesus remains silent to teach you how to abandon yourself to God, whenever you yourself be accused or slandered; and for love of him do not seek any other justification but silence. “He was like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb” (Is 53:7).

In this way your heart shall find peace. How many Saints, how many solitary and peaceful persons have generated this silence of Jesus!

Have mercy, O Lord, have mercy! I am full of sin, while You are innocence itself: and yet, You love those who treat you so unjustly, even unto dying for them. And shall I cling to feelings of animosity and bitterness for the smallest of offences? You allow yourself to be judged by everyone, and yet I wish to be judged by no one? When will I see my heart changed, O infinite goodness? My God, my Saviour, my Teacher, I confess before you my ungratefulness, my pride and presumption: by your grace I long to imitate you and to suffer in silence every sort of pain and injury that will be done to me. With my whole heart I forgive all those who have injured me, and who will injure me. Through your love I free them from having to restore the honour of which they have deprived me, and I wish no other honour than that of loving and serving you. Destroy in me all sentiments of bitterness and vengeance, dilate my heart with your charity that I may unreservedly love you, and in you love all those who persecute me, “rejoicing to be counted worthy to suffer dishonour for love of the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:41).

2. Jesus was taken from prison and dragged shamefully through the streets, so that He appear odious and contemptible to the people, who are accustomed to judging things by their appearance. He was treated as a cursed man, a seducer, a crazed person, and handed over to his executioners. Then, after being insulted and mocked, He was led through Jerusalem to the house of Pilate. Along the way they did him a thousand injuries, a thousand acts of violence. He heard nothing but curses. Dragged by ropes, pushed by spears, without rest, forced to walk on, worn out by the fatigue and torments of a whole night, if He fell He was loaded with blows and insults, as though the most despicable of all men. In this way the royal Prophet saw him: “I am a worm, and no man; scorned by men, and despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6).

And in this way, from the garden to Calvary, in fewer than twelve hours they caused him to make six journeys, and all the way the sweet Master left behind traces of his steadfast patience, his profound humility, his infinite charity and his incredible penance.

Awake, my soul, arouse yourself from the drowsiness and apathy in which you lie. Admire those women who rush along the streets of Jerusalem with Mary, wetting them in their tears and filling the air with their sighs. Recognize the most beautiful among creatures, the most holy among women, the most afflicted among mothers; recognize Mary, Jesus’ dear mother and yours, who goes in search of her soul’s beloved, who goes about asking if anyone has seen him.

O Mary so meek, you persevered in sorrowful prayer the whole night long, till you came to know that your Son was in the hands of sinners. Who can express the anguish of your heart, when He was seized and put into prison, and made the butt of the soldiers’ insults and injuries, and when you heard from John the news of his torments and the death sentence handed down by the Sanhedrin? Yet you, ever submissive to the will of God, did not hint your anguish to anyone in the usual manner of women in pain; and though an unspeakable pain was tormenting you from within, you showed nothing but perfect submission. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, you repeated, let it be to me according to your word. And before the sun has risen you leave your silent dwelling, to go in search of Jesus and follow him all the way to the Cross.

And behold, turning into the street which leads to Pilate’s palace, there appears what seems a wave of agitated people. It is a huge crowd which, amidst shouts of scorn and curses, is dragging a man burdened down with chains, his hands tied behind his back, his hair torn, and his face bruised and deformed with spittle and blood, so much so He cannot be recognized. However, the violent beating of your heart, O Mary, indicates your innocent Son to you, in the middle of the ferocious multitude. In the midst of the mob’s curses and his enemies’ triumph, beneath the shameful robe, the Son of God, meek amid the insults, tranquil amid the shoves, lets out neither a whisper nor a complaint.

This divine Lamb, finding himself in the company of wolves, longed to see his holy mother; for those who love, when afflicted, feel the absence of their dear friends even more vividly, and ardently yearn their presence, though it may increase their pain.

But you, blessed Virgin, could not see your Son, nor could He enjoy this one consolation. Allow me then to accompany you so that once again you may see him, and be comforted with him.

3. The scourging. My soul, consider how Pilate, declaring Jesus innocent but wanting to satisfy the crowd, condemns the innocent man to a public scourging in order to save him from death. What justice! To condemn an innocent man solely to satisfy the hatred of his accusers!

Jesus Christ was made to enter the Praetorium and stripped of all his clothes, saying not a word nor showing resistance.

So, his heart overflowing in love, to the Eternal Father he offers his innocent Flesh, which is to be torn, and his precious Blood, which He has yearned to spill for us for so long a time. They tie him to a pillar and then, paying no heed to Jewish Law which prohibited serving more than forty lashes, but following Roman Law for which there was no limit in number, they give in to satisfying their fury.

An entire cohort of soldiers surrounds the place, forming an iron circle. Two powerful executioners, followed by others stronger and even crueler, seize a bundle of rods and leather whips and knotted ropes.

My soul, look upon your meek Jesus, as though convinced of all the crimes attributed to him, standing tied to a pillar.

Who can say what confusion and pain were his in that moment?

From the very first lashes his flesh is bruised, cut and torn; and his blood spills from every part. The whip-lashes tear at his flesh, they fall upon the open wounds, they continue opening sores upon sores. What atrocity, what a bloody spectacle! They scourge him beyond measure, yet He does not complain. They whip him so cruelly that his whole body is but an open wound.

Is this, O divine Jesus, the very cruel and shameful torment You longed to undergo for us, and to which You submitted in order to expiate our sinful pleasures? How can I continue offending you still? O my God, by what right have I deserved that You suffer so greatly for me? You had foretold everything through the words of the Prophets:

“The ploughers ploughed upon my back; they made long their furrows… (Psalm 129:3)… God gives me up to the ungodly,… He breaks me with breach upon breach (Job 16:11 and 14)… From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they are not pressed out, or bound up, or softened with oil” (Is 1:6).

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Is 53:5).

O my God, all this for our sins! Why? For wretches like me have You undergone such punishment? For me, guilty of so many sins, have You suffered such excessive pain? What can I do for you, therefore, O my Saviour, what shall I do to expiate my crimes?

Behold, my soul, this model of penance, from whom all the Saints learnt how to treat their body and to subject it to the spirit. For, as long as we live in this world, our soul will have no enemy greater than our flesh.

This flesh, ever rebellious, does not wish to submit to reins or a yoke. Without restraint it follows after the worldly inclinations favoured by the senses. It aims so violently for the objects it desires that the spirit is often oppressed, and suffers more pain from the flesh than from all its enemies joined together. Here, instead, are the objects of the great austerity practiced by Christians after the coming of Christ, unknown to the preceding centuries: hair shirts, iron chains, acts of discipline, continual mortification of the senses: and all of this for fear of seeing, hearing, saying and tasting anything that might contaminate the purity of their heart.

We must prevent temptation and falling by the mortification of our body. The Apostle Paul himself said: “I pommel my body and subdue it” (1 Cor 9:27). If even all the holiness of David and wisdom of Solomon could not prevent their falling, for they allowed themselves to be allured by the pleasures of the senses, what will be the fate of those whose lives are totally dedicated to seeking what pleases their body? Precisely to expiate and check this unruliness so common to humankind did our Saviour wish his innocent flesh to be so cruelly torn.

***

VIRTUE – Penance.

REFLECTION – Mortify the senses of your body, the instrument of sin and the cause of Jesus’ sorrows, by depriving yourself of your favourite food, or rising from bed earlier than usual, or spending an hour in silence.
Deprive yourself of a permitted amusement. Above all practice modesty, especially of the eyes.
Do not satisfy your curiosity regarding other people’s business.
Today recite the Rosary on your knees.

EJACULATION – O Mary, the refuge of sinners, I place all my hope in you.

* * * * * * * * * *

A READING
A FAVOUR OF THE VIRGIN OF THE ROSARY OF POMPEII

IN LECCEAn astonishing conversion.

On the first day of the year 1890, in which the Virgin of Pompeii was to receive the highest exaltation by the Pope of the Rosary, Leo XIII, who was to render her cult universal, in the cultivated and pious town of Lecce, an act of mercy took place the likes of which can be read in the early pages of Christian history. This fact was published in IL ROSARIO E LA NUOVA POMPEI in the VI issue, 1890.

In the large Church of the Rosary in Lecce, before a crowd of gentlefolk, lawyers, students and artists who make up the population of this cultivated town, a priest approached the Altar for the divine Sacrifice. After thirty years of shameful estrangement from his beloved Bride, the Church of Jesus Christ, between tears of repentance and a public confession of his sins, he was offering to God, for the first time after so long an interval, the Victim of expiation and forgiveness.

The people gathered there joined their tears to those of the repentant man, this new Saul who, from being Christ’s persecutor, had now become an instrument of election by means of a great miracle on the part of the compassionate Queen of Pompeii.

The name of this priest who was offering the world this new proof of the power of God’s Mother, invoked under the title of the Rosary of Pompeii, was well-known for his public retraction and confession. It was Rev. Pasquale Bortone.

This extraordinary fact was recorded by the venerable pastor of that Diocese, by the Most Excellent Monsignor Salvatore Luigi Zola, the Bishop of Lecce. Msgr. Zola, because of his tender love for our Queen of the Vesuvian Valley, considered himself fortunate to be able to offer witness to the world of so great a miracle from such a Virgin, granted to his beloved town of Lecce where one of her lost sheep was returning to the fold.

It was 1860 and Fr. Pasquale Bortone, a priest in the town of Lecce, influenced by the novelty of the times and allured by youthful passions, wanted to shake off the Lord’s sweet yoke. Forgetting the lofty dignity to which God had called him, caring nothing for the indissoluble bonds which joined him to Christ and to the Church, he wanted to shamefully apostatize.

And there he was, another prodigal son wandering here and there far from his father’s home, always carrying within cruel pangs of remorse which gnawed at him night and day for having betrayed his God.

“In vain (he stated in his public confession) I tried to distract myself with recreation and pleasures; in vain I sought peace in the delights and allurements my new condition could offer me. Remorse was ever present, tormenting my soul and driving sleep from my eyes.”

It is useless to say how he fell from abyss to abyss after the first step. Bortone, after having betrayed the faith he had sworn to God at his Ordination, added corruption to corruption.

He spent thirty years living this life of sin.

He preserved only one thing from his days of youth: in this miserable state he did not forget Mary. May those reading this report take heed of Our most excellent Lady’s compassion!

“I would often pray to Our Lady, even if without faith,” he himself wrote.

In 1888 Bortone returned to his native town, Lecce, but in such a poor state of health that he made a pitiful sight.

From the doctor’s certificate which was published in the above-mentioned Magazine, it was noted that the unfortunate man was suffering from serious nervous disorders owing to poor dietary habits, as well as partial paralysis of the senses and movements in his whole body. As a result he suffered continuous tremors in his arms and legs, and a considerable weakening of strength.

Furthermore he suffered mental disturbances, for he was convinced that everyone wanted to do him harm; he was suspicious of everyone and everything. Lacking health, lacking the grace of God which grants patience and acceptance in illness, Pasquale Bortone gave in to desperation and twice attempted taking his life!...

He was found in this condition by Dr. Luigi Sellitto who, called in to visit him and having seen the serious condition of the sick man, frankly declared that he had little hope for his recovery.

“I had him in treatment for four months without positive results” the doctor wrote in his certificate.

On the contrary, the paralysis had invaded his arms and hands and had reduced him to such a state that he could no longer sign the paper for his pension which he received monthly.

Most fortunately the poor man had been taken in by the family of a nephew of his, a lawyer of Lecce, Mr. Nicola Bortone. With apostolic zeal for the Shrine of Pompeii and a tender devotion to the Holy Virgin invoked by this miraculous title, along with a steadfast holiness, this nephew had for some time turned to this Shrine seeking the prayers of all the Brotherhood, and especially of the young Orphan Girls of Our Lady of Pompeii.

The feast of the Rosary of 1889 arrived; he prayed with the Novena to the Virgin of the Rosary of Pompeii, to obtain grace in the most desperate cases. And to use even greater force on the heart of our merciful Queen, he joined the prayers said in his home to those said by the Orphans in this Shrine.

The result of such great faith and so many prayers was that the Blessed Virgin never forsook that soul, though it was tormented.

Pasquale Bortone, torn by remorse, at times tried to reconcile himself with God by means of the sacrament of confession; however, whenever he was told to make a public confession in reparation of the public scandal, he would refuse, tenaciously reluctant, and would even grow furious. He was enrolled in a Masonic Lodge.

This situation continued until the beginning of November, 1889.

It was the 29th of that month, when all the devotees affectionately turn to the Immaculate Virgin, beginning the Novena in preparation for her feast of December 8th.

The family of Avv. Bortone plucked up courage and suggested to the sick man to begin a Novena to the miraculous Virgin of Pompeii along with them, so that he might at least obtain a lessening of such great torments of the body, and consequently at least the possibility of sleeping. The sick man gave his consent, and so he too, with his nephews and nieces, began the Novena to the Virgin of Pompeii according to the method of the booklet in use at this Shrine.

The first triduum was completed. It was the night before Sunday, the first day of December, when Bortone distinctly saw the Most Holy Virgin who is venerated at Pompeii, who said to him:

“Confess and be reconciled with God, for you are still in time to do it.”

He awoke with a certain impression which at first made him think, but then gave no more importance to the vision than that which a dream deserves; and so, he did not speak of it, nor take it into account.

The following night, behold, once again the same Holy Virgin with words more pressing urged him to be completely reconciled with God, and assured him that he would triumph.

“Make haste,” Our Lady continued, “call the Confessor, confess yourself, and you shall experience triumph. On the day of my feast you must receive communion.”

Bortone woke up completely transformed into another person. Moreover, because the blessed Queen not only wishes to grant spiritual favours but temporal gifts too, that lost souls be summoned to the Heart of her Son, he was healed in body as well as in his soul.

The paralysis suddenly disappeared from this exhausted and worn-out person. This sick man who had become tired of his very self, to the point of desiring to commit suicide, rose from bed healed!...

He could barely await the first rays of light. As soon as day broke he sent for the parish priest of Santa Maria della Porta, Rev. Fr. Giuseppe Caprioli, in tears narrated all that the Virgin had done for him, and asked for a piece of paper. And Bortone himself, till then unable to sign his own name, as can be seen on a notary act, now wrote his confession with a firm hand and sent it to his Bishop.

Here is his declaration:

“I the undersigned Father Pasquale Bortone, seized by the grace of God, and through the patronage of Most Holy Mary of Pompeii, take back everything I may have said, or done, against God, the Church and the obligations of my condition. I pray God and Blessed Mary to always assist me, that by living a good life I may make amends for the scandal I have provoked, and may die within the bosom of the Catholic Church.”

“Lecce, 3 December 1889.

BORTONE PASQUALE, Priest

That night he slept peacefully. It was the first time, after thirty years of remorse, that he tasted the sweetness of a rest granted by a conscience at peace with itself, through divine grace. A few days later, in his own hand, he wrote a report of the miraculous favour received from the Virgin.

His conversion was complete. At first, out of respect for others, he did not wish to make a public retraction, and furthermore pleaded with Father Caprioli, that he, Fr. Caprioli, not be seen entering his home when visiting him. However, as soon as his retraction was published in the Leccese magazine, the VESSILLO DELLA VERITA (Banner of Truth), he bought several copies to send to those places in which he had caused scandal by living as a layman while being a priest.

Having accomplished those things prescribed by the Church in such circumstances, H.E. the Bishop of Lecce, Msgr. Zola, was able to reinstate him to the priestly ministry. First of all, he made him withdraw to follow a course of spiritual exercises for several days. Then he admitted him to the celebration of the divine Sacrifice. This took place on a holiday, the First of the Year of 1890. The church chosen for this special service was the large one of SS. Rosary of Lecce.

The novelty of this fact and the celebration about to take place drew a large crowd, not only of artists and workers who made up the Leccese population, but the aristocracy, the most famous lawyers and the students as well.

On that most solemn day the Priest, Fr. Pasquale Bortone, reconciled with God and with the Church, after almost thirty years of interruption, celebrated the Holy Sacrifice.

On the following Tuesday morning, December 3rd, caught up in the fervour of his recent conversation, Bortone stated his determination to atone for the public scandal he had caused by confessing in a public square.

The prudent Bishop approved the wish of this will transformed by the almighty hand of God, however, offered the Church instead of the square.

Thus, the Sacred Mystery completed, Fr. Bortone wanted to narrate the miracles of Mary of the Rosary of Pompeii to the large crowd before him, in his own words, asking everyone’s forgiveness for the scandal he had caused. Those present in the church could not hold back their tears, so moved were they. They recognized in this man a sign of Mary’s great Compassion.

Afterwards they left the temple praising and blessing the power of Our Lady, who on that day had opened a new fountain of grace from her Throne of Pompeii, on behalf of sinners.

The convert withdrew from the world into the Shrine of Lecce, and began making amends for the scandal provoked by living a truly penitent life.

Today, through the marvelous and extraordinary fact, a piece of the arcane curtain which covers the divine mystery enveloping the Shrine of Pompeii has been drawn back. Today the plans of God for this new Ark of Well-Being begin manifesting themselves to people of good will, through a shining light, which almost goes beyond faith.

Why, therefore, has God privileged humankind, and especially sinners, with such special love here in Pompeii?

Today, O brothers and sisters, having read about this most recent triumph of the Queen of victory, may you yourselves respond: - That God, in his temple of Pompeii, has chosen people, has chosen sinners, to convert and save them by means of his Mother. Moreover, through them a great number of other sinners are to be converted, into new servants faithful to the Queen of Heaven, and into new preachers of her unprecedented compassion.

Behold therefore, a piece of the mystery has been revealed: the temple of Pompeii, made up of sinners, has been destined by God to the confessions of sinners.

* * * * *

IN PALERMO: Sister Silvia Manzella is miraculously freed of consumption owing to the devotion of the Fifteen Saturdays.

“On January 3rd of 1906 I came down with a fever accompanied by sweating, a cough, and shoulder and chest pains, which foretold something very serious, especially for a constitution as fragile as mine.

The doctors wanted to test my spittle, from which analysis there resulted many Koch bacilli.

Meanwhile the illness continued its course, and the other sisters exhorted me to pray to the Virgin of Pompeii to regain my health.  Therefore I began the Fifteen Saturdays: my students also prayed with great faith and fervour. We were seeking an extraordinary grace, a true miracle; on the other hand, does Mary’s powerful compassion have limits?

In that period the fever slowly subsided, the cough grew weaker little by little and the expectoration disappeared completely.

At the end of the Fifteen Saturdays spittle was once again sent to a chemical lab; the result was better for few bacilli were found this time.

We began the Fifteen Saturdays again, after the completion of which my kind Superior wanted to have the spittle analyzed a third time.

And Oh, what a consoling surprise! This time the certificate was completely negative. For greater assurance a testing was requested at the hospital lab as well, and the response was negative here too.

On the first Sunday of October, the feast of the Most Holy Rosary, completely healed, I was able to join my sisters and students in thanking the blessed Virgin of the Rosary of Pompeii in our chapel.

And now I am no longer suffering; I have survived a very cold winter in perfect health, and so refreshed that all those who see me remain stupefied. May the most fervent and infinite thanks be rendered to the glorious Mother of Mercy and Queen of Victory!”

Palermo, 23 January 1909.

SISTER SILVIA MANZELLA
Servant of the poor

(From IL ROSARIO E LA NUOVA POMPEI, Year XXVII).

* * * * *

IN SIENA: Sister Maria Caterina Prunetti, a Benedictine, regains her health through the devotion of the Fifteen Saturdays and the reciting of the Holy Rosary.

“To the greater glory of God and of the heavenly Queen, I am sending you the story of the miraculous healing I obtained, and am including the medical report which will reveal the gravity of the ailment that struck me.

Having lost all hope of recovering, and having been abandoned by the doctors and left to divine will, at the tender age of twenty-eight I had already prepared myself for the sacrifice of my life.

Nevertheless I began the Fifteen Saturdays to the Most Holy Virgin of the Rosary of Pompeii.

On August 6th I felt a greater impulse to turn to this powerful Queen.

“Dear Mother,” I said to her, “on the occasion of your glorious Assumption St. Stanislao begged to go to heaven to celebrate this feast day, and was heard by you. I dare not seek so much from you, being unworthy; however, if it be in conformity with your and Jesus’ holy will, I seek from you the grace of my health so that I may serve my Religious Community.”

In that same moment, I cannot explain what took place in me. A heavenly voice spoke to my poor heart and I heard it saying: “I want to heal you! For your part, correspond to this grace!”

The miracle had already taken place! My eyes shed tears of joy…

On that very day I was able to assist at the Canonical Hours and take part in the community meal. After a few days I once again began the community activities which I had left off five years earlier.

In a word, thanks to our heavenly Benefactress I have completely recovered. All of my sisters never cease applauding this miracle.

For me there only remains to correspond for the favour received.”

Siena – Monastery of Our Lady by the Refuge N. 2, December 4th, 1904.

SISTER MARIA CATERINA PRUNETTI
Benedictine

* * * * *

IN LAUREANA: A favour received by Avv. Francesco Carlizzi on the last of the Fifteen Saturdays preceding the feast of May 8th.

“With a soul full of joy and deep sentiment I wish to communicate a great favour granted to my daughter Maria by the Most Holy Virgin of Pompeii in May of last year, 1903.

My little girl Maria, six years in age, had been very pale for some time, and was daily losing weight. We in the family, as well as her doctor, could not explain to ourselves the reason for her wasting away. There had to be some hidden disease, but which?... We simply could not understand it.

Then one day the child felt pain in her left knee, which prevented her walking. We immediately called the doctor who, after visiting her, gave us the most painful, indeed excruciating news: it was a malignant tumour!...

She began undergoing all the cures available, but in vain!... Before our terrified eyes the swelling grew, and the child could no longer move in bed!...

We then turned to our Holy Mother of Pompeii!... It was the Friday evening which preceded the last of the Fifteen Saturdays, in preparation for the feast of the Virgin of Pompeii of May 8th.

Having lost hope in science, I could only see glimmering in my soul and the most holy name of the Virgin of Pompeii, and in a burst of faith, while applying the last medication of the day to the child, I placed a note on the sick knee where there was written – V. R. Pompei o. p. n. – I then bandaged the knee again and, recommending myself to the powerful Queen in order to obtain the longed-for favour on the following day, the last of her Saturdays, I exclaimed with burning faith:

“You alone, my dear Mother, can heal my daughter, my little, unfortunate child!”

Exalted by my faith and by an inner presentiment of grace, I could barely wait for Saturday morning and the moment to apply medication to the little girl. A miracle! In removing the bandage I immediately noticed that the swelling had gone down. I began shouting: “A miracle! A miracle!”

The entire family came running, and shortly afterward the doctor arrived, who could no longer find swelling, hardness, or any trace of the ailment suffered.

In fact, the child, who had been lying in bed for about two months and had been unable to stand on her feet, got up and began walking, running and jumping with her sisters, without feeling any pain…”

Laureana, 14 August 1904.

AVV. FRANCESCO CARLIZZI

(From IL ROSARIO E LA NUOVA POMPEI, Year XXIII).