Soothe Me with the Beauty of Thy Countenance

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Recently a dear friend here in Rome gave me a booklet by Dr. Philip Boyce, O.C.D., Bishop of Raphoe, Ireland, entitled At Prayer with John Henry Newman. The booklet is available from the International Centre of Newman Friends. The Carmelite bishop calls prayer "the texture of Newman's life." He presents some of Newman's own magnificent prayers. All his life the famous Oxford convert sought to pray in spirit and in truth. When I pray using Cardinal Newman' words, I savour in them the same humility and confidence that I have tasted in the prayers of Saint Aelred, William of St–Thierry, and Saint Claude La Colombière.

I was struck in this prayer by the petition, "soothe me with the beauty of Thy countenance":

O mighty God, strengthen me with Thy strength,
console me with Thy everlasting peace,
soothe me with the beauty of the Thy countenance;
enlighten me with Thy uncreated brightness;
purify me with the fragrance of Thy ineffable holiness.
Bathe me in Thyself, and give me to drink,
as far as mortal man may ask, of the rivers of grace which flow
from the Father and the Son,
the grace of Thy consubstantial, co–eternal Love.

And I find this one very close in spirit to Claude La Colombière's Act of Confidence:

O my God, my whole life has been a course of mercies and blessings shown to one who has been most unworthy of them.
I require no faith, for I have a long experience,
as to Thy providence towards me.
Year after year Thou hast carried me on —
removed dangers from my path —
recovered me, recruited me, refreshed me,
borne with me, directed me, sustained me.
O forsake me not when my strength faileth me.
And Thou never wilt forsake me.
I may securely repose upon Thee.
Sinner as I am, nevertheless, while I am true to Thee,
Thou wilt still and to the end,
be superabundantly true to me.

The booklet's sections on intercessory prayer, on Newman's love for the Roman Breviary, and on his devotion to the Rosary are enlightening and inspiring. In conclusion, Dr. Boyce explains the three kinds of divine presence in which Newman's prayer unfolded: the presence of the indwelling Trinity, the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the presence of Christ in Sacred Scripture.

The Bishop of Raphoe describes Newman's life of prayer as "a persevering effort in the weakness and darkness of our human condition." One recognizes there the experience of the author of Lead, Kindly Light.

Today being the liturgical commemoration of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I decided to turn once again to Cardinal Newman for his Litany of the Seven Dolours. Newman was fond of litanies. I am too. They address a persistent need of the heart for a prayer that is rich in images, yet simple and rythmed by repetition. Unlike the excessively didactic and heavy preces given for Lauds and Vespers in the current Liturgia Horarum, litanies in their classic form allow "heart to speak to heart," and foster the actuosa participatio recommended by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council. Here then, is John Henry Newman's Litany of the Seven Dolours.

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Litany of the Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary

LORD, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us.

Mother of sorrows, Pray for us.
Mother, whose soul was pierced by the sword, Pray for us.
Mother, who didst flee with Jesus into Egypt, Pray for us.
Mother, who didst seek Him sorrowing for three days, Pray for us.
Mother, who didst see Him scourged, and crowned with thorns, Pray for us.
Mother, who didst stand by Him whilst He hung upon the cross, Pray for us.
Mother, who didst receive Him into thine arms when He was dead, Pray for us.
Mother, who didst see Him buried in the tomb, Pray for us.

O Mary, Queen of Martyrs, Pray for us.
O Mary, comfort of the sorrowful, Pray for us.
O Mary, help of the weak, Pray for us.
O Mary, strength of the fearful, Pray for us.
O Mary, light of the desponding, Pray for us.
O Mary, nursing-mother of the sick, Pray for us.
O Mary, refuge of sinners, Save us by thy prayers.

Through the bitter passion of thy Son, Save us by thy prayers.
Through the piercing anguish of thy heart, Save us by thy prayers.
Through thy heavy weight of woe, Save us by thy prayers.
Through thy sadness and desolation, Save us by thy prayers.
Through thy maternal pity, Save us by thy prayers.
Through thy perfect resignation, Save us by thy prayers.
Through thy meritorious prayers, Save us by thy prayers.

From immoderate sadness, Save us by thy prayers.
From a cowardly spirit, Save us by thy prayers.
From an impatient temper, Save us by thy prayers.
From fretfulness and discontent, Save us by thy prayers.
From sullenness and gloom, Save us by thy prayers.
From despair and unbelief, Save us by thy prayers.
From final impenitence, Save us by thy prayers.

We sinners, Beseech thee, hear us.
Preserve us from sudden death, We beseech thee, hear us.
Teach us how to die, We beseech thee, hear us.
Succour us in our last agony, We beseech thee, hear us.
Guard us from the enemy, We beseech thee, hear us.
Bring us to a happy end, We beseech thee, hear us.
Gain for us the gift of perseverance, We beseech thee, hear us.
Aid us before the judgment seat, We beseech thee, hear us.

Mother of God, We beseech thee, hear us.
Mother, most sorrowful, We beseech thee, hear us.
Mother, most desolate, We beseech thee, hear us.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

V. Succour us, O Blessed Virgin Mary,
R. In every time, and in every place.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, grant, we beseech Thee, that Thy dear Mother Mary, whose soul the sword pierced in the hour of Thy passion, may intercede for us, now, and in the hour of our death, through Thine own merits, O Saviour of the world, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, God, world without end.
Amen.

2 Comments

Father,
Next week will be First Friday and First Saturday...but since they are in the Triduum there is no Mass. Is reception of the Eucharist at the Exaltation of the Cross and at the Easter Vigil acceptable for making the 6 First Saturdays and 9 First Fridays?

Dear friend, the Sacred Paschal Triduum of Holy Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are the wellspring and summit of every other expression of devotion. Participate wholeheartedly in the Sacred Liturgy of the Church during the Paschal Triduum, receiving Holy Communion at the Solemn Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday and at the "Mother of All Vigils" in the glorious night of Pascha . . . and be at peace for all the rest.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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