Blessed Cardinal Newman’s Litany of the Passion reveals the tenderness and compunction of his Christocentric piety. It also demonstrates that Newman was a humble man, capable of entering into the mainstream of Catholic devotion and of learning from it, even while adapting it somewhat to his own sensibility.
To illustrate Newman’s Litany I chose a painting by a French contemporary of his, William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905). The position of Jesus attached to the column already suggests the torments of the crucifixion: his arms are extended, his feet lie one upon the other as they will be on the cross. No blood is visible on His sacred body; it appears white and host–like. His face is turned upward, suggesting the mystery of His victimal priesthood. The flesh of Jesus appears luminous — almost transfigured — while, all around Him, are shadows. All the light in the painting seems to emanate from the body of Jesus. I see already the Lumen Christi [the Easter Candle] of the Paschal Vigil. Is this Bouguereau’s way of expressing the whole mystery of Redemption?
The heart of the litany:
The Word made flesh, Have mercy on us.
Hated by the world, Have mercy on us.
Sold for thirty pieces of silver, Have mercy on us.
Sweating blood in Thy agony, Have mercy on us.
Betrayed by Judas, Have mercy on us.
Forsaken by Thy disciples, Have mercy on us.
Struck upon the cheek, Have mercy on us.
Accused by false witnesses, Have mercy on us.
Spit upon in the face, Have mercy on us.
Denied by Peter, Have mercy on us.
Mocked by Herod, Have mercy on us.
Scourged by Pilate, Have mercy on us.
Rejected for Barabbas, Have mercy on us.
Loaded with the cross, Have mercy on us.
Crowned with thorns, Have mercy on us.
Stripped of Thy garments, Have mercy on us.
Nailed to the tree, Have mercy on us.
Reviled by the Jews, Have mercy on us.
Scoffed at by the malefactor, Have mercy on us.
Wounded in the side, Have mercy on us.
Shedding Thy last drop of blood, Have mercy on us.
Forsaken by Thy Father, Have mercy on us.
Dying for our sins, Have mercy on us.
Taken down from the cross, Have mercy on us.
Laid in the sepulchre, Have mercy on us.
Rising gloriously, Have mercy on us.
Ascending into Heaven, Have mercy on us.
Sending down the Paraclete, Have mercy on us.
Jesus our Sacrifice, Have mercy on us.
Jesus our Mediator, Have mercy on us.
Jesus our Judge, Have mercy on us.
And the closing prayer:
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee,
Because through Thy Holy Cross Thou didst redeem the world.
Let us pray.
O God, who for the redemption of the world wast pleased to be born; to be circumcised; to be rejected; to be betrayed; to be bound with thongs; to be led to the slaughter; to be shamefully gazed at; to be falsely accused; to be scourged and torn; to be spit upon, and crowned with thorns; to be mocked and reviled; to be buffeted and struck with rods; to be stripped; to be nailed to the cross; to be hoisted up thereon; to be reckoned among thieves; to have gall and vinegar to drink; to be pierced with a lance: through Thy most holy passion, which we, Thy sinful servants, call to mind, and by Thy holy cross and gracious death, deliver us from the pains of hell, and lead us whither Thou didst lead the thief who was crucified with Thee, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, God, world without end. –Amen.
This litany, along with other prayers, devotions, and meditations (including two sets of meditations on the Stations of the Cross) may be found on-line at the Newman Reader; Baronius Press has a beautiful edition of Newman's Meditations and Devotions.
If, this deep into Lent, you are looking for a deserving recipient of alms, I think Silverstream Priory qualifies. For one thing, they have a Staffordshire Terrier named Hilda as part of their community, and even make accepting her part of their notes on vocations to their priory: We have a very gentle dog; if you are not dog-friendly or are easily shocked when a dog acts in a very doggy fashion, you will not be happy among us. In another post, Father Mark comments, A dog contributes much to the quality of community life, not the least of which is the indispensable craich (an Irish word meaning fun and good times). Abba Xanthios said, “A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge.”(Just search for Hilda at the blog site!)
Information on their fundraising campaign and how to donate here.