The Rosary is a walk through the life of our Lord Jesus Christ through the eyes of the Blessed Virgin Mary, his mother. In its meditations, we journey with Mary through Jesus' incarnation, life, passion, death, resurrection, and glorification. On Tuesdays, it is customary to meditate upon the Sorrowful Mysteries of Jesus' voluntary suffering and death for the sins of the world.
This Tuesday, of course, is a particularly important day in the lives of the Faithful both here in the United States, and indeed, for people all over the world: this Tuesday, voters in the United States will choose the next President.
To pray God's grace upon the voters, that they would use true prudence to elect a candidate who will promote authentic anthropology and advance the genuine common good, I wrote today the following meditations upon the Sorrowful Mysteries, and I invite my readers to pray them with me.
MEDITATIONS ON THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES
OF THE HOLY ROSARY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION *
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A. The Apostles' Creed
For the Christian, faith in God is the foundation of everything. It is the first principle. It is the building block upon which all other prayer must be based. And the Apostles' Creed, a fundamental statement of Christian belief and the baptismal symbol of the ancient Church founded by St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, is still the most unifying confession of the apostles' faith among the fractured communions of Christianity in this country. The Twelve Articles of the Apostles' Creed contain the whole of the kerygma and the fullness of the deposit of faith. It is this deposit of faith that we pray will guide Christian voters as they approach the presidential election. It is this deposit of faith which, pray God, guides Christians as they live their lives. And in living their lives in this way, the Apostles' Creed becomes an influence upon all men and women of good will, so that they might pattern their lives, their consciences, and their votes after the natural law common to the good of all.
For Christians to vote according to the fullness of divine revelation, we pray:—
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
Almighty God, who reveals to your faithful people the fullness of who you are, send down your Holy Spirit upon all voters as they cast their ballot for President of the United States of America; and grant, O God, that they may do so in a way that promotes the truths which you have revealed; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
B. Prayers for Faith, Hope, & Charity
The Theological Virtues are a gift of God's grace. We can cooperate with that grace, but ultimately, these virtues are God's gifts. The Theological Virtues are not revealed in their fullness to those who only use their reason, and so we must ask God to bestow them upon all men and women of good will: especially as they prepare to exercise their franchise and vote. Let us pray that God will pour out actual graces upon those who vote in the presidential election, and that the voters thus blessed will freely choose a candidate whose policies: promote and allow the growth of faith; seek not to extinguish, but to encourage and expand the hope we have in Christ; and allow true charity — the self-sacrificial love demonstrated in the self-offering of Jesus upon the Cross to the Father through the Spirit — to be celebrated and lived throughout the United States.
For God's mercy to bestow upon all voters the actual graces of the theological virtues as they vote, we pray:—
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners: now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Glory be 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.
Almighty God, whose servant Saint Paul revealed that three things remain: faith, hope, and charity: grant that those who vote in the presidential election in the United States of America may be filled with the gift of these your virtues as they cast their ballots for that high office; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I. The First Sorrowful Mystery:
The Agony of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:36-39)
Jesus asks his beloved disciples to come with him into a quiet place and pray before the most momentous and difficult decision of his life. He is tempted by the Enemy to turn aside from his eternal mission as the Savior of the world and reject the filial love of his Father which he has known from all eternity. Jesus knows what he will face: the coming night, the Praetorium the next day, and finally Golgotha itself. Worse than the sheer physical torture, there will be the devastating betrayals by Judas, Peter, and all the other apostles. Worst of all will be the Father's turning away his face as Jesus makes his eternal self-offering on the altar of the Cross. In the face of this awful temptation, Jesus prays. And in his prayer of loving obedience to the Father, he makes his act of obedience: "Yet not as I will, but as you will."
Jesus' example of prayer and loving self-giving must inspire us who face a momentous decision in the presidential election. We, too, face a dire choice when we approach the ballot box. And we must not give in to the temptation to vote out of selfish motivations, tribal loyalties, or whimsical notions of what is true, good, and just. We pray God to give us the same grace he gave to Jesus as he suffered in the garden to submit our wills to that of the loving Father, and trust in his providential grace and mercy.
For all voters in the presidential election to cast their ballots after humbly submitting to the will of God as given in both natural and divine revelation, we pray:—
Hail Mary... (Ten times)
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of hell; and lead all souls into heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.
O Lord Jesus, who bore in the garden the full weight of the burden that you were about to carry and yet submitted meekly to the will of your Father in heaven: have mercy upon those who vote in the presidential election in the United States, and grant that like you, they may choose obedience rather than self-serving, and self-giving rather than self-love; who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
II. The Second Sorrowful Mystery:
The Scourging of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Pillar
He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, knowing pain, like one from whom you turn your face, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed. Though harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth; like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth. Seized and condemned, he was taken away. Who would have thought any more of his destiny? But it was the LORD’s will to crush him with pain. My servant, the just one, shall justify the many, their iniquity he shall bear. (cf. Isaiah 53)
Our Lord Jesus is innocent, and yet he is condemned by the voices of his own people to suffer the brutal torture of scourging. Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea, shows no leadership in acquiescing to the mob. Instead, he uses Jesus as a scapegoat, making what he believes to be a practical compromise gesture to the people he has been sent to govern. His decision, and that of the ruling class which had whipped the common folk into a frenzy, is the essence of the evil that can be accomplished through the power accrued to earthly leaders. It is also a strong object lesson of the wickedness that can be accomplished by those to whom political power is given.
Those who exercise the right to vote and those have power to choose their own leaders and thus influence the policies that are enacted by government also bear the grave responsibility for the actions of those whom they elect. Just as the Emperor in Rome was ultimately responsible for the actions of Pilate, so too are American voters responsible for the actions of the President they empower. In the case of our Lord's suffering and torture at the hands of Roman scourges, salvation — not justice, in the sense that the guilty were being punished — was brought about, as the Prophet Isaiah describes in his passage on the Suffering Servant. But for Americans voting today, pray God that their votes reflect a commitment to true justice and the advancement of the common good.
For the grace to courageously vote for a candidate whose policies will advance the common good and to bear responsibility for the moral consequences of that vote, we pray:—
O my Jesus...
Almighty Father, who was pleased to look upon the Just One, your Son our Lord, and to see in him a propitiation for our sins despite the injustice of Pilate's verdict: have mercy upon those who vote in the presidential election in the United States, and grant that through an outpouring of your grace, they may elect a President who will advance the true common good in this and every land; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
III. The Third Sorrowful Mystery:
The Crowning of our Lord Jesus Christ with Thorns
The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort. They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15:16-20)
It must have been so difficult for the disciple of Jesus who saw these events to recall them. To see Jesus marched before Gentile soldiers, beaten, mocked, spit upon, and abused. Remember that Jesus had already been scourged: his sacred Body had already been ripped and bloodied; he is woozy from loss of blood and experiencing shock. As he bleeds and suffers before them, the cruel soldiers — not satisfied with unthinkable physical abuse — now begin a course of psychological debasement. The razor-sharp thorns which pierce the brow of our Lord bring new rivulets of his precious Blood streaming down his head, and as they fall over his brow and past his eyes, we can almost imagine them to be scarlet tears shed for love of the very men who are torturing him.
It is said that the State bears the monopoly on the legitimate use of force, but we must remember that this force can be misused. It can be used to oppress human dignity both at home and abroad; it can be used to thwart authentic religious liberty. Let us pray that American voters may elect a President who will safeguard the dignity of all human persons and promote the freedom to serve God aright.
For voters to elect a President who will protect human dignity in all persons and advance religious liberty, we pray:—
O my Jesus...
Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered terrible mockeries, abuse, and injustice at the hands of the State: pour out your mercy upon the voters of the United States, and grant that when they elect the next President, they may never empower one who would violate human dignity or religious liberty for any person; who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
IV. The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery:
Our Lord's Carrying his Cross to Golgotha
So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, 'Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.' At that time people will say to the mountains, 'Fall upon us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?" (John 19:16-17; Luke 23:26-32)
Having borne the torture of the scourging and the psychological abuse of the crowning with thorns, our Lord — despite barely being able to walk — is made at first to carry his Cross. The image is so familiar its shocking brutality is almost lost on us: unless we compare Jesus' carrying his cross to those in the Twentieth Century who were made to dig their own graves before being shot over them. When finally Jesus' sacred Body can no longer summon the wherewithal to carry the Cross, the Romans impress a passer-by to carry it for and with him. With the help of Simon, Jesus can now spare some of his dwindling strength to speak to those women who follow and mourn him. His prophecy is stark: if deeds like these are done when the wood is green — when Jesus' presence is among his people — what will they do when it is dry — when he is gone?
Our Lord defined discipleship as taking up our Cross daily and following him. Again, the familiarity of this commandment is diminished for us living today. But let us consider what it is Jesus is asking: he is calling us to take up the means of our death — the very instrument of our demise — and willingly, voluntarily accompany him on his paschal journey up to the Place of the Skull where we, with him, must lay down our lives for the sake of loving obedience to to the Father. Should we not then bear our Cross into the voting booth? Must not the Via Crucis
, the Way of the Cross, lead through the polling place as well as the church? Loving obedience to the Father: the example of Jesus; the call of Jesus to us.
For the grace to carry our cross and die to ourselves everyday, especially on Election Day, we pray:—
O my Jesus...
Almighty God, whose only-begotten Son obediently carried his cross to fulfill your will: save us from our willfulness that would lead us astray from your grace; give us the grace to embrace our Cross as Jesus did; and grant that we may always do your will, even on election day; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
V. The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery:
The Crucifixion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ
"(i) Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (ii) Amen I say to you: this day, you will be with me in paradise. (iii) Woman, behold your son: son, behold your mother. (iv) Eli, Eli: lamma sabacthani (My God, my God: why have you forsaken me)? (v) I thirst. (vi) Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit. (vii) It is finished." (Luke 23:34, 43; John 19:26-27; Matthew 27:46; John 19:28; Luke 23:46; John 19:30)
The Seven Last Words of Jesus are some of his most profound. In them, he embodies and enacts the petitions of the prayer he taught us: "...as we forgive those who trespass against us..." becomes "...forgive them...". Jesus teaches us about eternal life and the true breadth of God's mercy when he promises paradise to the goof thief. He gives us one of his greatest gifts: that of his own blessed Mother, even as he is dying to atone for our sins. Jesus quotes from the Psalms, teaching us both the price of human sin — the divine retribution and abandonment of the Father — and also encouraging us with the profession of faith that leads to joyful proclamation of God's salvation (cf. Ps. 22). Jesus reminds us — even as his precious Blood pours from his wounded, sacred Body — that he is true God and true man: truly suffering for our sake as he dies upon the Cross, thirsting for our souls' love to a depth greater than we can understand. In his final act of obedience to the Father, he offers his soul in loving commendation. And finally, speaking as the eternal God pronouncing judgment and sentence, he proclaims that all of creation, all of reality is consummated and finished: the atonement is achieved. The victory is won. Death is vanquished. Jesus has loved us to the very end.
That is, of course, the central message of the Cross. That message of love — of self-giving, self-sacrificing love — is why St. Paul is moved to declare that he desires to know nothing but "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (cf. 1 Cor. 2:2). This loving gift of self which Jesus teaches us upon the Cross must be the motivation for the Christian's vote. This out-pouring of loving obedience must give us the criteria by which to judge candidates' platforms, actions, and policies. The Cross of Jesus Christ stands athwart history, it has been said. It must also stand athwart our lives, the scales in which the candidates must be balanced and our vote cast.
For all voters, that the actual graces of God may suffuse their souls as they vote in the presidential election in the United States, giving them the ability to vote by the criterion of the Cross, we pray:—
O my Jesus...
Almighty God, who sent your only-begotten Son into the world that all who believe in him might be saved by the power of his Cross: vanquish the power of evil by the Cross of Jesus Christ, and grant, O Lord, that all those who vote in the presidential election may do so in the shadow of the Cross, choosing the candidate who stands most clearly by its light of self-giving and sacrifice; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
C. Hail, Holy Queen & Closing Collect
Jesus is the King of the Universe. By right, by virtue of his being the Second Person of the most holy Trinity, and by virtue of his death and resurrection, our Lord Christ exercises dominion over all creation. This basic truth of Christian faith has already been confessed in the Apostles' Creed and repeatedly exalted in the Gloria Patri (Glory be) as we have prayed the Rosary. But what may be forgetten is that by virtue of her having brought forth the King, the blessed virgin Mary is Queen. It is she who, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory by the power of her Lord and ours, Jesus Christ. From heaven and in her glorified body, she reigns as Queen of the whole dominion of her Son by his sovereign will. She is the epitome of Creation, and she, being still part of the Church and the communion of the saints, is bound in the charity of the Holy Spirit, her Lord and Spouse, to all of Christ's faithful, both on earth, in purification, and in heaven. It is through this same Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, that she can hear the requests for intercession offered to her by Christ's faithful, and it is through Him, the eternal Spirit of God, that she begs her Son to act in his mercy.
It is easy for men and women to lose sight of the most important things in the face of a society focused like a lazer on its own pleasure and self-gratification. Even in matters of great import, like the Presidential election, we can being distracted into believing that the daily tracking polls, the spin, and the constant give and take of a campaign for the Federal presidency matter more than anything else. But taken in from the perspective of our Sister and Mother, that new Eve who was and is the first-fruits of the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the choice of a man to lead a nation little more than two centuries old for a term of four years pales almost into hilarity. And so it is with a firm confidence that Christians can ask the intercession of their great patroness, assured that she will ask her Son for the outcome which will most benefit the common good of the whole world. Jesus, in turn, will intercede for us with God the Father Almighty as our great High Priest, and send his Holy Spirit to act in the world of men. It is in this assurance that we come to petition our Queen.
For the mighty intercession of the blessed virgin Mary, Mother of God, under her title the Immaculate Conception, by which title she was proclaimed patroness of the United States of America, we pray:—
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
℣. Pray for us O holy Mother of God:
℟. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray.
O God, whose only begotten Son, by his life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life: grant, we beseech thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the blessed virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
* By D. E. Barker, 5 November 2012. Every effort has been made to ensure that these Meditations on the Holy Rosary on the Occasion of the Presidential Election are in conformity with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The author hereby incorporates by reference, declares adherence to, and subscribes to the PROFESSION OF FAITH laid down by Pope Bl. John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter motu proprio, Ad Tuendam Fidem, and published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on page 3 of the 15 July 1998 edition of L’Osservatore Romano (the same may also be found at www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfoath.htm).