Saturday 11 February 2023

Lenten Devotions Stations and Meditations from the Rosary Shrine - Lawrence Lew O.P. - CTS Devotions

Lenten Devotions 
Stations and Meditations from the Rosary Shrine 
ISBN 9781784697532
eISBN 9781784697044
CTS Booklet D845

Over the last few years I have read over 330 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society. I stumbled upon them while doing research on an author, and have been hooked ever since. I have read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series, and I loved the books in the CTS Great Saints Series. I love reading about so many saints, their lives and their times. My other favourite books form the CTS are the Prayers and Devotions books. This is the thirteenth Stations or Way of the Cross from the CTS I have read. I try and pray a Stations each day during Lent, and each Friday the rest of the year. This is one I could see myself returning to often, especially having the eBook on me at all times. 

The description of this booklet is:
“Fr Lawrence OP offers three powerful Lenten devotions: Stations of the Cross featuring photographs and meditations, the Canticle of the Passion based on words revealed to St Catherine de Ricci, and recollections on the seven last words of Jesus on the Cross.

Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P. offers three powerful devotions from the Lenten practices of the faithful at St Dominic’s Priory church, the Rosary Shrine in London, UK.

The Stations of the Cross feature photographs of the splendid stations in St Dominic’s to accompany the traditional prayers and Fr Lawrence’s meditations.

The Canticle of the Passion is a 16th Century devotion based on the words of Scripture revealed to the mystic and stigmatic St Catherine de Ricci. Dominican nuns traditionally pray it on Fridays in Lent. 

Finally, Fr Lawrence offers a set of recollections on the Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross, forming a powerful object of contemplation for Holy Week.

"Through these images of the way of the cross, and through these meditations on Christ’s passion and his love for you and me, my hope is that you will be impressed – in every sense of the word – by the weight and madness and intensity of God’s love for us, that you will be renewed in your baptismal commitment to follow that way of love, and that, having followed Christ to the end, you and I will also share in Love’s victory over sin, death and all the woes of our mortal nature.””

As can be seen from the description this volume is more than just the Stations devotion. The chapters and sections in this book are:

About this Book
Stations of the Cross
The Canticle of the Passion
The Seven Last Words of Our Lord

The beginning of the introduction to this volume states:

“This book presents three distinct Lenten devotions that are part of the life of St Dominic’s Priory Church, the Rosary Shrine, in London: the Stations of the Cross, prayed on Fridays in Lent; the Canticle of the Passion, also prayed on Fridays in Lent; and the meditations on the Seven Last Words of Our Lord, which are preached in Holy Week. 

The paintings of the Stations of the Cross presented here are in the Rosary Shrine Church, and they were painted by Nathaniel Westlake in 1887; his signature appears at the bottom of the fourteenth station. Westlake is renowned as a stained-glass designer, but he also painted some very notable works for churches, including the ceiling for St Joseph’s in Highgate, and the monumental Stations of the Cross in the College Chapel of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Ireland, which are based on these in St Dominic’s, London. The London stations were canonically erected on 9th March 1887.”

We are also informed that the reflections on the 7 Last Words were given in 2022. A sample station is:

Third Station:
Jesus Falls The First Time
Under The Weight Of The Cross 

V: We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee. 
R: Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole. (Is 53:5) 

Thrice, as the cross is revealed in the Good Friday liturgy, do we genuflect and venerate its wood. So, too, on his journey to Calvary, three times does Christ’s body succumb to the weight of the cross; he is chastised to make us whole. 

Jesus is depicted as though genuflecting beneath the cross, his first fall. For his three falls, these three genuflections of the Lord under the weight of our sins, we can make reparation by genuflecting before the cross, not only during the lengthy Good Friday liturgy, but also in this devotional Way of the Cross. Looking upon the image of him who humbled himself under the cross, weighed down by this instrument of humiliation and death, so we too shall humble ourselves before God, going down on one knee. For just as St Peter denied the Lord thrice and was then asked thrice if he loved Jesus, thus allowing Peter a chance to make reparation for his sin, so we too are invited by the Church’s liturgy and in this devotion of the via crucis to show our love, our reverence, our adoration of the Lord who, for love of us, bent his knees under the weight of the cross. 

Our Lord allows himself to succumb to the weight of the cross because he wants to share in our human weaknesses and redeem us from them. His three falls, perhaps, will correspond to the three powers of the human soul that can lead us astray. These three powers of the human soul are the intellect, or our thoughts and ideas; the will, or our desires and wants; and the passions, or our emotions and feelings. Through his first fall and then lovingly rising up again, Jesus saves us from sins of the intellect: intellectual pride – the tendency to think we know best, or to use our knowledge and learning to dominate others – or perhaps the not using the reasoning mind that God has given us and tending towards lazy thinking, superstition, or mindlessly following popular opinions and ideas and political trends even if they contradict the Word of God. 

So, genuflecting before the Lord, we confess our sins of the intellect; we repent of them; we make reparation for them through this act of humility; and we rise again with our loving and merciful Saviour. 

All: Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be to the Father… 

I love Thee Jesus, my love above all things. I repent with my whole heart for having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always, and then do with me what Thou wilt.”

And the beginning of one of the 7 last words reflections is:

Spy Wednesday 

The third word (see Jn 19:26, 27): 
To Mary, his mother: Woman, behold your son.
To John: Behold your mother. 

They say that you cannot choose your family, and this is certainly true if we are speaking of our biological birth and our DNA. We are related by blood to a certain family, born of our mother and father. In the natural order of things, we are born of our parents as sheer gift, for parents also cannot choose the kind of child they have, despite the flawed attempts of contemporary eugenics and boutique surrogacy. A child is not a commodity or product (“of the will of the flesh or of the will of man”, as St John put it), and ought to be a gift of God freely and lovingly accepted by husband and wife. 

God, therefore, coming into this world as man, was also born of a woman and into a family with an ancestry, as we all are. Christ need not have become man in this way, but he chose it because it is the human way and, therefore, the most fitting way for God to become man and to share our human experience. Thus, “born of woman, born under the law” (Ga 4:4), Jesus shared the bloodline of Mary, and so he was descended from Obed, and Nathan, and Zorobabel, and Boaz and Ruth, and David and Mattathias, and a whole host of other exotic names, as the Gospel of St Luke recounts. And Christ’s family tree, like all of ours, was a mix of great and noble people, some colourful characters, and some rogues and sinners, even murderers.

However, because Christ is God, unlike us he could in a unique sense choose his mother. God prepared Mary to be the Mother of God; his grace preserved her from the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception, and so Mary remained sinless throughout her life. Mary, in her sinlessness, therefore, lived as God had wanted us all to live from the very beginning, had Adam and Eve not fallen into original sin. But because our first parents abused the freedom God had given them, so now, “in the fullness of time” (Ga 4:4), God himself provides the remedy for sin by creating Mary free from sin, and then by being born of Mary, born of this very particular and unique woman. As the Catechism says: “To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary ‘was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 490). 

However, Mary’s role as Mother is completed only now on the cross, when Jesus gives her to the Beloved Disciple, and thus makes her Mother of the Church, mother of all who are baptised, mother of those redeemed by Christ, mother of all who truly live through the grace of Christ, our mother.”

This is an excellent little volume. I can see myself returning to the stations frequently, and the 7 Last Words reflections during Holy week for this year and years to come. I highlighted several passages when I read through the volume the first time, some of them are:

“In this way, God wills to show us the depths of his love – by traversing our roads, entering our lives, coming close to our wounded humanity in all its complexities and pains. The way of the cross thus goes through our bedrooms, our offices, our cities, our neighbourhood cafés and corner shops, our schools and factories, and even through our friendships and marriages and relationships, and right into our hearts. For Heart speaks to heart, and the Lord’s journey to the cross is impressed upon our world and our ways so that Christ can speak to us today. More in his actions than in words, Christ the Word Incarnate speaks of God’s way for us, which is love.”

“Through his first fall and then lovingly rising up again, Jesus saves us from sins of the intellect: intellectual pride – the tendency to think we know best, or to use our knowledge and learning to dominate others – or perhaps the not using the reasoning mind that God has given us and tending towards lazy thinking, superstition, or mindlessly following popular opinions and ideas and political trends even if they contradict the Word of God.”

“Mary, in this station, represents every true mother, then, and any parent who has loved a child will know the pain that Mary endures, and she shares in theirs. “Grief is the price we pay for love,” the late Queen Elizabeth II, a mother of four, had rightly said. For only a heart that loves will feel so keenly the sufferings of the beloved – it is like a sword that pierces the soul – and the immaculate heart of Mary who loves so purely will also feel more intensely than we can the purest agony of grief as she meets her sinless son bent over by the heavy cross of our iniquities.”

“Jesus has said that anyone who wants to be a disciple of his must daily pick up his cross and follow him. But often we might feel compelled to carry the cross: in an instant, unexpected illness and tragedy can strike us, and personal disasters and social calamities in which we can be caught up can shatter all our plans and disrupt our lives. We might resign ourselves to our new realities, and we can take up the cross laid upon us, but more often than not, we feel that this is a cross we have been forced to endure – perhaps with humiliation, resentment or anger such as might have been felt by Simon of Cyrene.”

“The strong love of Christ helps and transforms Simon so that his resentment turns into acceptance and into a true sharing in the redeeming work of Christ. Thus, Simon’s own sons Alexander and Rufus, who are onlookers, are said to have become missionaries and leaders among the early Christians.”

“Hence, Jesus walks this way of love, going down the road out of Jerusalem, and those who are on the wayside and who will look at his holy face will be transformed and saved. Many, who despise him, hide their faces from him, just as many now will not look on the face of the beggar, the stranger, the drug-addict, the prisoner, the most vulnerable and in need on our streets. But for those who do look and see – and who will esteem the other as a fellow man and so bridge the divide of inhumanity by reaching out in love and compassion – these, like St Veronica, are true icons of Jesus Christ. And this, of course, is our baptismal vocation, as we carry the holy face imprinted not on cloth but on our hearts and minds.”

“By his second fall, Christ kneels beside us when we have fallen into sin once again, into habitual sins, and urges us not to despair but rather to look at him and hope in the power of grace and in the power of his love to heal and save us.”

“Therefore, when the time came for Christ to be crucified, the nails were not necessary to fix him to the cross. But in order that the prophecies might be fulfilled, the Son of God is pierced with nails. In order to satisfy the cruelty of his executioners, the bloodlust of man through the ages, the Son of Man has nails driven through his hands and feet. And in order to share in the excruciating pain that we human beings sometimes have to undergo, Jesus Christ also wills to be crucified. Hence St Paul said: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree’” (Ga 3:13).”

“Every day, and not only in Lent, we are sent out as missionaries of charity to satisfy their thirst, to give them the love we have received from God.”

“Christ’s Sacred Heart is pierced with a lance, his blessed Mother’s immaculate heart is pierced with a sword, both hearts are broken by love. So will it be for us if we dare to love; if we continue on this mad adventure that we call Christian discipleship; if we choose daily to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus to Calvary and beyond (see Mt 16:24).”

The reflections are moving. The accompanying images facilitate reflection and prayer. It is a great little volume I can easily recommend it. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For all other reviews of Stations of the Cross click here.

Books by Lawrence Lew OP:
Mysteries Made Visible 

Books with Photographs by Lew:
A Short Guide to Praying as a Family

Other Stations of the Cross from the Catholic Truth Society:

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