The Confraternity of the Passion
What’s a confraternity?
At the time of St. Paul of the Cross (+1774), founder of the Passionists, confraternities still played a large part in the life of the Catholic Church. They provided spiritual formation and promoted a number of Christian ministries, like prison ministry, bereavement ministry, the instruction of children, various prayer ministries. Today, they’re less prominent.
History of the Confraternity of the Passion
The Confraternity of the Passion began in April 6, 1755 when a group of laypeople in Frosinone, Italy, already members of a prayer group, approached the Passionists about helping them “ observe the liturgical feasts and assist those in need.” They knew the Passionists through parish missions and retreats they conducted.
Since then, “the Passionists have generally felt committed to promote the Confraternity of the Passion as a way to continue parish missions and retreats and achieving what St. Paul of the Cross sought to do with prayer groups. The association was also seen as a spiritual movement for Passionists to promote the memory of the passion and make it part of daily family and social life,” writes Passionist historian Fr. Fabiano Giorgini, (History of the Passionists, p 160)
What’s the Confraternity of the Passion?
- It’s a lay organization enabling men and women to take part in the liturgy and inspiring them to work for the good of those in need.
- It promotes the memory of the Passion of Christ “as part of daily family and social life.”
- It fosters the ministry of the Passionists.
How can you participate?
- Pray with the church and keep the Passion of Jesus in mind each day in your life.
- Send your name and email (or address) to be enrolled. A list of selected Passionist resources–books, scapulars, etc.– can be found below.
- Follow this blog and other Passionist sites online to enter the mystery of Jesus Christ as it unfolds in your life and the days of the church year. There’s a calendar to guide you below.
- Some Passionist locations have meetings for members of the Confraternity of the Passion or groups associated with the Passionists. Other Passionist locations and resources in North America and worldwide are indicated below.
Father Victor Hoagland, CP
Praying the Year with the Calendar
“Lord, teach us to pray. Like the apostles long ago, we ask: How shall we pray? There’s no better way than to pray with the church.
The Second Vatican Council renewed the Eucharist, the sacraments and the church’s daily prayer. It also encouraged renewing popular devotions, like the Rosary, which often come from the liturgy and lead to it, while affirming that “ the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any devotions.” ( Sacrosanctum Concilium 13)
The church’s guide to prayer is its calendar, which follows the mysteries of Christ day by day over the year. The calendar “has a special sacramental power and influence over the Christian life.” (Pope St. Paul VI)
Our church calendar is a guide to the most important feasts of the Lord, beginning with the Sundays of the year. Sunday is the day of his Resurrection. In the course of the year, other feasts of the Lord and feasts of his saints, especially feasts of Mary, the mother of Jesus, are celebrated. The calendar marks certain seasons for prayer– Advent before the Feast of Christmas, Lent before the Feast of Easter. The church recommends that devotions be prayed in harmony with the feasts of Jesus Christ and the liturgical seasons.
Along with Sundays, feasts of the Lord and the saints and the liturgical seasons, our calendar lists days of prayer recommended by the pope and bishops. It also remembers civil holidays and events from the world we live in, for “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ?” (GS 1)
The calendar below was prepared for the use of the Confraternity of the Passion. It is based on the General Calendar of the Catholic Church, the Calendar for the Dioceses of the United States and the Calendar of the Passionists, which lists Passionist feasts and celebrations. It lists the scriptures read each day in our lectionaries. This calendar will appear each month at http://www.vhoagland.com . May it have a “special sacramental power” to guide you to Jesus Christ and the life he gives to us and to our world.
The Confraternity of the Passion
Getting to Know the Calendar
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. (Psalm )
The calendar invites you to number your days in God’s time. “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” God invites us into a world larger than we see each day, a world revealed in Jesus Christ “who is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews ) If we follow him, we will live in him.
His death and resurrection are celebrated especially on Sundays of the year and the yearly celebration of Easter. The Sundays are specially marked in this calendar to remind you. Yet we’re also called to follow Jesus Christ each day, for he promised to remain with us all days till the end of time. (John 15)
Our calendar celebrates the mysteries of Jesus Christ and also remembers the saints who “proclaim the work of God in Christ and offer an important example to us.” (SC 103-104) Mary is the first of the saints, because she is so closely connected to the mysteries of Christ. Her feasts appear in the calendar every month of the year.
With Mary, the apostles, the evangelists and New Testament figures like John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Mary and Lazarus appear in this calendar. They are important because they knew Jesus, heard his voice and saw what he did; Jesus appeared to them after rising from the dead. An apostle is celebrated each month in the calendar as one of the church’s living stones.
We remember other saints in this calendar. They are chosen by the church because they reveal God’s unfolding plan through time in the saving work of Christ. Men and women, old and young, they represent all peoples, all nations and all times. They preached the gospel to the nations.
Martyrs from all periods of church history are significant in this calendar. Dying for their faith they believed “ in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” From the early centuries of persecution, martyrs like Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, Agnes, Felicita and Perpetua, Cornelius and Cyprian, Lawrence the deacon appear in our calendar as seed of a growing church.
Martyrs from later centuries also are listed here. Some founded new churches, fulfilling the command of Jesus to “Go out to the whole world and preach the gospel, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Boniface, a martyr bishop, is considered a founder of the church in the germanic lands. Andrew Kim Taegon and a layman Paul Chong Hasang, head the list of 103 martyrs canonized in 1984 as founders of the church in Korea. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs, are considered founders of the church in China. Saint Andrew Dũng-Lạc,Priest, and Companions, Martyrs, are founders of the church in Vietnam. The martyrdom of St. Charles Lwanga and twenty-one companions in Uganda began Christianity’s remarkable growth in Africa in the late 19th century.
Martyrs from today, like Edith Stein and Maximillian Kolbe have been recently added to this list.
Saintly teachers and spiritual guides
Besides martyr saints, the church was blessed in the centuries after Constantine with a significant number of holy teachers and spiritual leaders, like Athanasius, Augustine, Jerome, Basil the Great, Ambrose, Anthony of Egypt, Benedict and Martin of Tours. They are memorialized in our calendar.
They’re joined by saints like Bernard, Francis of Assisi, Dominic, Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure from the medieval period and saints like Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, Vincent de Paul from the Reformation period. Some of these saints were founders of religious communities or they began important movements in the church. Saints from today continue to be added to the church calendars.
Popes, Bishops and Kings
Church leaders through the centuries are prominently featured in our present calendar. Twenty popes like Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, and Pius X are celebrated, some as memorials, others as optional memorials. The popes in the calendar (once 38 in number, now reduced ) are important for understanding the development of the papacy in the church from its beginning till today. Recently John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II were placed in the general Roman calendar as optional memorials.
Bishops like Charles Borromeo of Milan, Turribius of Peru, Ansgar of Scandinavia influenced important movements of reform in their parts of the world. King Louis of France, Casimir of Poland and Lithuania were civil leaders who inspired their people with their holiness. They appear on our general calendar as church leaders or leaders of society. The wide range of saints, young and old, through the year are signs of the universality of the church.
Saints and the Signs of the Times
Not every saint you know appears in this calendar. Most listed here are universally significant. Many saints of the church appear in national church calendars or calendars of religious orders. Some are honored by local churches or by individuals devoted to them.
Church calendars are meant to respond to the times. Women are often overlooked in the life of the church and society; their work and accomplishments need to be recognized. Our calendars today acknowledge saintly women like Catherine of Siena, Clare of Assisi, Hildegarde of Bingen, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux as spiritual leaders and church teachers. In her many titles, Mary, the mother of Jesus, also represents the gifts women bring to the world.
We honor saints from the eastern church, like John Damascene, Cyril and Methodius, Josaphat, Nicholaus, Ephrem the Syrian and Andrew the Apostle as bridges of understanding between the churches of the east and west. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is counted among them because many of her feasts are celebrated by these same churches.
Saints who draw our attention to certain acute social problems in today’s society have an important place in the calendar. Martin de Porres, Peter Claver, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Maximillian Kolbe, for example, point to the persistent challenge of racism and war.
All the saints in this calendar, in fact, responded to the poison of their times. If we study them closely we can see in their times the poison of our own.
This calendar, prepared for the Confraternity of the Passion, draws from the General Calendar of the Catholic Church, the Calendar for the Dioceses of the United States and the Calendar of the Passionists. It lists each day the scriptures read in our lectionaries that accompany the feasts and seasons of the year. (Please scroll down)
Reflections and commentaries on the feasts, readings and saints can be found online at:
THE PASSIONIST CALENDAR
The Passionist Calendar, which follows the general calendar of the church, is a guide to Passionist spirituality. Passionists pray with Christians throughout the world, using the same scriptures and celebrating the same seasons and feasts, but besides the church’s common liturgy, the Passionists have solemnities and feasts of saints of their own.
The solemnity of their founder, St. Paul of the Cross, and obligatory memorials of some of their saints: St. Gabriel, St. Vincent Strambi, St. Gemma Galgani, the blessed martyrs Eugene Bossilkov, the martyrs of Damiel, Spain, Dominic Barbari and Lorenzo Salvi. Others like St. Charles Houben and Blessed Bernard Silvestrelli are celebrated as optional memorials.
The Passionists also celebrate important feasts celebrating their charism: The Solemn Commemoration of the Passion of our Lord on the Friday before Ash Wednesday and the Prayer of Jesus in the Garden on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The memorial of the Glorious Wounds of Jesus Christ is celebrated on Friday, the 2nd Week of Easter. The feast of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ is celebrated July 1.
The Passionists celebrate The Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows, September 14-15– celebrations found also in the church’s general calendar– as special Passionist feasts with proper readings of their own.
The Passionist calendar also recommends optional votive celebrations of the Passion of Jesus and the Sorrowful Mother for Fridays and Saturdays during the year. Friday and Saturday are days traditionally dedicated to mysteries of the Passion of Jesus. On Friday, Jesus died and was buried. On Saturday, Mary his mother mourned for her Son and sought understanding of God’s mysterious plan.
With its list of the mysteries of Christ and his saints, the Passionist Calendar is an important guide to the Passionist charism. Year by year, day by day, it can help you know who the Passionists are.
The Passionist Calendar can be found on the Passionist website. https:// www.passiochristi.org/ For a US version please scroll down.
Besides praying the liturgy of the church, Passionists have a strong historical commitment to devotional prayer, like Meditation on the Passion, the Stations of the Cross and other popular devotions.
Meditation on the Passion Today
Meditation on the Passion is an important Passionist devotional prayer and part of Passionist missionary efforts since the 18th century. Passionists have been a strong voice reminding the church to keep the Passion of Jesus in mind.
The devotion finds its simplest form in realistically imagining a scene from the final hours of Jesus, from his agony in the garden of Gethsemane till his death on the cross on Good Friday, drawing a lesson from it and applying the lesson to oneself. “Who is this?” was a question one should ask . “Why does he suffer?” was another question.
St. Paul of the Cross and those who followed him recommended the devotion. Church leaders encouraged the devotion with the promise of indulgences. Prayers and meditations on the Passion were a staple in prayerbooks and books of meditation.
What about today? How can we meditate and teach meditation on the Passion now?
Evangelizing Passion Meditation: The Scriptural Accounts of the Passion
One challenge facing teachers of prayer following Vatican II is the evangelization and harmonization of devotions and liturgy. How can we “evangelize” and “harmonize” meditation of the Passion of Jesus? Realism is still a powerful way, as Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” proves, but modern scriptural scholarship and the renewed liturgy offer another important way.
Rich insights into the Passion from the evangelists, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John can be found in scriptural scholarship today. The mystery of the Passion pervades the entire gospel story, commentators say. ( cf. Don Senior, Commentaries of the Passion narratives http://www.passionofchrist.us ) As his human life begins Jesus offered himself: “Behold I come to do your will, O God” Though God himself, he took on our human nature, humbling himself, until he fulfilled his earthly mission in the mystery of his death and resurrection. His life was a hidden cross. His Passion is proclaimed in the entire gospel story.
Using the scriptures to meditate on the Passion of Jesus doesn’t mean abandoning one’s own imagination, insights or devotions for the research of scholars, however. Recent scriptural research awaits the meditation of believers and their questions: What does his Passion mean to me, to us, to the world we live in? If we told Bridget of Sweden, for example, to limit her meditations to scriptural research we would never have her meditations on the pieta.
Besides the New Testament, Christian tradition, following Jesus himself, saw the mystery of the Passion in the Old Testament, especially in the psalms. The call of Vatican II to know Jesus Christ through a deeper engagement in the scriptures carries the challenge of finding the wisdom of the cross in these ancient writings.
Meditation on the Passion: the Eucharist
“Lord Jesus, you gave us the Eucharist as a memorial of your suffering and death.”
In his letter “Desiderio Desideravi” Pope Francis emphasized the connection between the bread broken at the Last Supper by Jesus and his death on the cross. Though his disciples were unaware at the time of his death “what it meant for Jesus to say, ‘body offered,’ ‘blood poured out,’ at the supper…When the Risen One returns from the dead to break the bread for the disciples at Emmaus and on the Sea of Galilee, that gesture of breaking the bread opens their eyes. It heals them of the blindness inflicted by the horror of the cross, and it renders them capable of “seeing” the Risen One, of believing in the Resurrection.” (DD 7)
The Eucharist opens our eyes to the Passion of Jesus. Similarly, the Passion of Jesus gives meaning to the bread and wine of the Eucharist and the other sacraments. The “breaking of the bread” is one of the many signs of the cross that appear in our liturgy announcing the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Sundays and other feasts of the Lord, especially, are times to keep his Passion in mind.
The saints remembered at the Eucharist, especially martyrs who followed Jesus in death, also recall the Passion. The mystery of the Passion is universal, in fact, found in every age, in all humanity and in creation itself.
Meditation on the Passion: the Liturgy of the Hours
The Liturgy of the Hours offers a daily reminder of the Passion of Jesus, particularly in the psalms, which open our hearts to different levels of life. Though ancient prayers, they “express accurately the pain and the hope, the unhappiness and trust, of people of every age and country, and celebrate especially faith in God, revelation and redemption.” (Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours. 107) Mirrors of life, they help us see ourselves and others, and so in praying them we “rejoice with the joyful and weep with those who weep.”(Romans 12:15) The psalms heal our self-centeredness and draw to others. (Instr. 108)
In them we also hear “the voice of Christ crying out to the Father, or the Father conversing with the Son…the voice of the Church, the apostles and martyrs.” (Instr. 109)
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells the Emmaus disciples to listen for his voice in “ all that was written of me in the Law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms.”.(Luke 24:44) For St. Augustine and the monastics from the 5th century into the middle ages the psalms were favored prayers for knowing the mystery of Christ.
The revised Liturgy of the Hours has renewed this important way of reflecting on the Passion of Jesus, especially in its morning and evening prayers. For more, http://www.praydaybyday.org
Meditation on the Passion: Creation
“Without parables, he did not speak to them.” (Mark 4:34) Jesus did not draw much from books of Jewish law or politics or current events in his teaching. Instead, he spoke in parables taken mainly from the natural world – the birds of the air, trees, seed, the seasons, storms on the sea, mountains and hills. Even in his ministry he turned to creation as an instrument for healing and for bringing life– bread and wine, water, the touch of hand and two constant realities of creation– death and resurrection. Through creation, Jesus Incarnate made known what the kingdom of God would be like.
Before him the psalmist declared “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of his hands’ (Psalm 19). Creation has a role in witnessing God’s glory and has a place in God’s kingdom.
Endangered today, creation shares in humanity’s fall. It also shares in its redemption through the mystery of the passion and resurrection of Jesus who is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” On our part, we’re called to renewed appreciation of creation that “day unto day pours forth speech; night unto night whispers knowledge.” We’re called to accompany and care for creation on its fragile journey through time.
It’s part of God’s plan. For more http://www.ourmarygarden.com
Devotional Prayers and Popular Piety: Stations of the Cross, the Rosary
Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross, one of the most popular devotions to the Passion of Christ, follows the final earthly journey of Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to Calvary where he is crucified and then to the garden where he is placed in a new tomb. Images of the Stations are found everywhere in the Catholic world in churches, shrines and country pathways.
The devotion grew in the high middle ages, but became especially popular in the 18th century inspired by the preaching of St. Leonard of Port Maurice (+1771).
A number of Christian themes appear in the devotion: the theme of life as a journey or pilgrimage, the passage from this life to a risen life, and the desire to see the Passion of Christ as a book of life revealing the wisdom and power of the Cross.
Like other devotions, the Stations of the Cross is not meant to be a prayer of set words or actions, but a meditational prayer that leads to a variety of insights. Like the four gospels it opens our minds to see the Passion of Jesus in different ways.
The Stations of the Cross should always offer a message of hope in Jesus who died and rose again. Like the Stations of the Cross pilgrims follow in Jerusalem, we should find ourselves led to the empty tomb of the Risen Jesus as we pray this prayer.
The Seven Sorrows of Mary
Jesus was born of Mary. She was his mother, and she also was his disciple when he began his mission. From the time the angel spoke to her in Nazareth, a sword pierced her heart.
“How can this be?” Mary asked the angel who announced his birth. It would not be the last time she asked that question. Mary did not know what lay ahead. She could only trust, and trust is hard when you face the unknown as she did.
Tradition describes seven of Mary’s sorrows: The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35) The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-21 The Loss of Jesus for Three Days (Luke 2:41-50) The Carrying of the Cross (John 19:17) The Crucifixion of Jesus (John 19:18-30) Jesus Taken Down from the Cross (John 19:39-40) The Burial of Jesus. (John 41-42)
“Your own soul a sword shall pierce, “ the old man Simeon told her in the Temple as he held her newborn Son in his arms. His prophecy was fulfilled in the events of Jesus’ birth. The poor stable he was born in was hardly something Mary would have wanted. Exile in Egypt, with the threats and deaths that took place, was hardly something she ever planned for. When Jesus at twelve years stayed behind in the temple after a Passover celebration, it was a sign of his future mission, but what would Mary, his mother, know of that? She only knew then what it meant to lose him.
And what was Nazareth like? The Jews who settled in the mountain villages of Galilee were strong believers that God’s kingdom would come as the prophets promised. How would it come? The mother of James and John – relatives of Jesus and Mary– believed it would come through a powerful revolution; they were willing to fight for it. Even before Jesus rose in the synagogue at Nazareth to proclaim his mission, Mary knew that would not to be his way. His rejections caused her sorrow.
Luke says that Mary, his mother “ kept all these things in her heart.“ (Luke 2:51) She remembered sorrows as well as joys.
The last four of Mary’s sorrows came when the sword of Jesus’ Passion pierced her heart. She followed her Son to Jerusalem with the others and was there when he was arrested and sentenced. She stood at the cross when he died; she took part in his burial in a garden tomb.
Some of this information we have from the gospels, some from tradition. The Stations of the Cross informs us Mary met her Son as he went to Calvary carrying his cross and she held him in her arms as he was taken down from the Cross. Tradition is a general word. The gospels rest on multiple sources.
Is one of them, perhaps the most important – Mary, who “kept these things in her heart.”
Devotion to the Seven Sorrows, like the Stations of the Cross, is a meditational prayer. Words and pictures lead us to reflect and imagine the mystery of God found in Mary’s sorrows. They lead us to the mystery of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.
The Rosary is a popular prayer to Mary, the Mother of God. “Hail Mary, full of grace,” the angel said, announcing God’s invitation to be the mother of his Son. Mary knew Jesus intimately in his human life and after he rose from the dead; she is a guide to the deepest mysteries of God. The Rosary and feasts that honor her are her “school”.
The Rosary as a prayer to Mary developed over time. Early on, St. Luke took Mary who “kept all these things in her heart” as a source for his gospel. (Luke 2: 51) Various feasts associating her with the mysteries of her Son were celebrated by the church throughout the year. Through the centuries ordinary Christians found Mary a guide to the promises of Christ.
By the end of the 16th century the practice of saying 150 Hail Marys in series or decades of 10 became popular among many ordinary Christians. A simple, profound prayer, not beyond anyone’s reach, the Rosary brings peace to the soul.
Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries celebrated by the church in the liturgy were associated with praying the Rosary. In recent years, Pope St. John Paul proposed the Luminous mysteries from the ministry of Jesus be added to them.
The Rosary, like the Stations of the Cross, is a meditational prayer. It is meant to bring those praying it into contact with the mysteries of God. It is best said in harmony with the gospels and the liturgy of the church. In Advent, it leads us to the mysteries of Jesus’ birth, in Lent to the mysteries of his death and resurrection. Throughout the year, it can deepen our understanding of the feasts that are celebrated.
The mysteries of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection are meant to be repeated in our own lives. The Rosary helps us “imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.”
Victor Hoagland, CP March 9, 2023
PASSIONIST LOCATIONS RESOURCE SITES
https://vhoagland.wordpress.com ( Blog based on the feasts and readings of the church year. Jamaica Confraternity )
http://passionofchrist.us (Resource site on the Passion of Jesus, Jamaica Confraternity)
http://stpaulofthecrossmonastery.com/Confraternity_of_the_Passion_of.html (Confraternity, St. Paul Monastery, Pittsburgh, Pa)
https://www.passionistnuns.org/passionistoblates/index.htm (Passionist Oblates, Whitesville, KY)
Other Passionist Locations and Resources
http://www.passiochristi.org/en/ (Passionists, Rome)
http://passionistsinternational.org/ (Passionists International)
https://thepassionists.org/ (Passionists, Eastern Province, USA)
https://passionist.org/ (Passionists, Western Province, USA)
https://www.passionistnuns.org/index.html (Passionist Nuns, Whitesville, KY)
http://www.ourladyofcalvary.net/notes-from-olc/ (Passionist Sisters, Farmington, CT)