Holy cross

Ways to Deepen Your Devotion to the Holy Cross

About six months after the Great Lenten Fast that prepares us for the Easter festivities, there is another lesser-known Little Fast that punctuates the year. This time of penance and abstinence is traditionally undertaken by the Franciscans in imitation of Saint Francis of Assisi, who began the custom of fasting from the Assumption until Saint Michael (September 29) as a spiritual preparation. to the great feast of angels; Saint Francis had a “special love and devotion for Saint Michael”, said Saint Bonaventure.

This fast is sometimes called “Lent of St. Michael”, although at its peak are the feasts that fall midway on September 14 and 15. The first is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross which commemorates, among other events, the miraculous discovery of the relic of the True Cross of Christ by Saint Helena in Jerusalem in 326, and the dedication of the church of the Saint -Sepulcher. Pilgrims returning from the Holy Land to Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries were particularly moved to contemplate the Passion of Christ, and devotion to the Holy Cross and to the wounds of Christ increased during this time.

The day after the Holy Cross (September 15) is the feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which contemplates the participation of Our Lady in the sufferings of Christ crucified, as prophesied by Simeon: “a sword will also pierce your soul” (Lk 2: 53). Because of the intensity of Mary’s charity, her part in the Passion of Christ is also the most intense. Saint Francis, a very man of his time, meditated deeply on the Passion of the Lord during his Little Fast, and, like Our Lady, he too came to share the sufferings of the crucified Lord, but in an unprecedented way. Because, as Saint Bonaventure tells it, “on a certain morning of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross” in 1224, Saint Francis received the sacred stigmata – the physical wounds of Christ appeared on his own body. François “was upset and his whole body was flooded with a mixture of joy and sadness. He rejoiced because of the gracious way in which Christ looked at him… but his being tied to a cross pierced his soul with a sword of compassionate pain.

The month of September therefore invites us to deepen our devotion to the Holy Cross; to the precious wounds of Christ; and above all, out of love for Christ crucified, to participate in the redemptive suffering of Christ as Our Lady and Saint Francis did. The famous Hymn Sequence for the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Stabat Mater, believed to be of Franciscan origin, says: “Virgin, of all blessed virgins, listen to my tender request: let me share your divine pain… Let me suffer the wounds of this cross, steeped in love for your Son.

So in September, let’s pray to the Stabat Mater at least every Friday. While looking at a picture of the Crucifixion or holding a Crucifix, ponder the text. Or do it while listening to a set to music of the hymn from the sequence: Pergolesi’s version is one of my favorites, and I remember it was beautifully sung in Lady of London’s Rosary Shrine chapel during from last year’s Passiontide.

In addition, I recommend the transcendent music of Sir James MacMillan whose magnificent Stabat Mater premiered at the Vatican in the Sistine Chapel in 2018; the recording of this occasion can be viewed on YouTube.

Thereby, “fac me cruce custodiri morte Christi praemuniri confoveri gratia“:” May I be protected by the Cross, protected by the death of Christ, cherished by grace. “