If the Luminous Mysteries are my favorites to pray, the Sorrowful ones are the easiest. When I first began praying the rosary, I saw no possible benefit in dwelling on the details of the passion--imagine! With time and trust the the Church knows what she is talking about, I came to understand a little better the place of suffering in the Christian life and the Christian’s place in suffering. Hard to understand, a paradox, a necessity, and ultimately the way to joy. Just as there are no shadows without light, there can be no joy without the cross.
The Agony in the Garden: Seminarians will spend a great deal of time here with you, Father. They are asked to bear so much, give up so much, shoulder so much, love so much. It is bewildering and overwhelming, and they will find themselves asking you to relieve their burdens. Help them to know that the way through their own daily passion is through Gethsemane, in prayer with Christ who leads the way. Keep them men of prayer and trust, willing to come to you in the honesty of their hearts when circumstances seem to overwhelm, but also men who seek your will and not their own. Prepare them by their prayers to work out Your will in this world.
Mary, you were not present at the Garden but were surely there in your heart. Intercede for these men, your sons all, to walk with confidence and trust the way prepared for them just as Christ did, just as you did. And please, may we be with them in these dark hours, close by and prayerful. Seek for us the grace to keep watch without sleeping, mindful of their agony and entering into it with them.
The Scourging at the Pillar: How easy it is for others to suffer for our own sins! How easy it is to punish those who are convenient but have not offended! As priests, these men will bear the pains and problems of every community they enter into or lead. That which we cannot bear in ourselves, we cast upon our priests, and then it is our hands that hold the punishing lash.
Sustain them, Father, and intercede for them Mary, as they walk knowingly and in love into a world that will punish their faith and their love merely because it exists and its witness discomforts us. Help us to comfort them and please, Father, let us never be the ones who scourge them.
The Crowning with Thorns: Freedom without God leads invariably to cruelty and license. Jesus, you were crowned with thorns merely because the men you were given over to could do it, and no one would stop them. You endured the mocking and derision at the hands of those You came to save. So it will be with these men. The priests who have gone before them will tell them of being spat on, ridiculed, of mothers bundling their children away with frightened whispers in the ears.
GIve them fortitude, Father, to love even then. Mary, wrap them in the mantle of your love even as they expend themselves, over and over, in the face of a world that cares not for them or about them. Help them to be by their very presence a living and visible prayer for the world. We cannot bear their crown of thorns, but perhaps we can extend a hand to stay others from placing it on their brow. Give us the faith and courage to not let pass unremarked the ridicule of the world, and create in us a defender’s heart, that we too may be witnesses to Your love and theirs.
The Carrying of the Heavy Cross: All of us must carry our crosses, but these men will have crosses heavier than most, for they have been called to carry our burdens as well as their own, just as Christ did. Like you, Jesus, they will walk before us to show us the way, reminding us that there is no Resurrection without Calvary.
Father, keep that knowledge within them, the certainty that the cross leads to Heaven. Mary, walk with them and encounter them along the way of their journey, as you encountered your own Son. Intercede for them and comfort them as you comforted Him. And select from among us those who, like Simon, will stand shoulder-to-shoulder to link arms with them and carry a measure of the burden, every step of the way.
The Crucifixion: We must all die to self to rise to You, but for our men in seminary, the process begins quickly and proceeds relentlessly. We ask so much of them--You ask everything. They give up the comfort of family nearby, of independence even of schedule, of many of the comforts the rest of us rely on. Letting go is so hard, Father, but it is only when we empty our hands and ourselves that you can fill them. Still, Father it is so hard, so hard. Help them to know that when they, too are lifted up on the cross, they beckon us so that we may see Your love and your presence in the world.
Sustain these men as they join themselves to Jesus on the cross, expending themselves for us and for You. Keep us close by them with Mary and John, that we may reach out and embrace them even as they lose themselves for our sakes in Your service.