The following is a commentary on St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s classic poem, Canticle of the Blessed Virgin at the Foot of the Cross, by the late French patrologist, Fr. Bertrand de Margerie, S.J. The article begins with the poem itself. – Ed.

1. Let us contemplate our Mary so afflicted
Near her Savior’s cross,
Her blessed soul transpierced
By sword of living pain.

2. She groans and sighs
From love’s inspiration,
Suffering great martyrdom
Not visible to human eye.

3. Jesus dying is her torture,
Love her greatest torment.
Offering her heart in sacrifice,
O my God, how great her torment.

4. Beholding her love’s object
Hanging on a gibbet
She suffers more within her soul
Than any martyr ever.

Part II

5. The same pains she feels
As her beloved dying Son:
His the very echo of her suffering,
True portrait of her torment.

6. Tears flow in abundance,
She trembles and turns pale,
Her body quite exhausted,
Her great love sustains her still.

7. We sinners by our crimes
Make Jesus and Mary
Two innocent victims.
Ah! Ah! Ah! Let us never sin again.

Part III

8. O our divine Mistress,
We are all filled with compassion.
Through your heart full of tenderness,
Intercede for us with your dear Son.

9. Pierce our hearts with an arrow
Of love from your heart,
That as the breech is made
Our hearts may share your grief.

10. Enable us to feel your sufferings,
O Mother of fair love,
Thus to expiate our offenses,
And give you something in return.


In his treatise on true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Saint Louis focuses mainly on Mary in the mystery of the Incarnation.

Here we want to show in the light of his Canticle about Mary at the foot of the Cross, and presupposing the principles enunciated in his treatise on true devotion, how we can elaborate his insights in the context of the Cross where Mary is still more than at the Annunciation the loving Mother of the Lord, the instrument of His permanent Incarnation as Son of God. Christ crucified, her God and Savior, wants to make use of her created freedom to save our own freedoms. Salvation started with Mary not only through her consent to become Mother of God, but also with her tears at seeing her Son crucified out of love for her. So if for every human being Jesus Christ is the fruit of Mary, He is also the fruit of Mary’s tears. Mary is objectively necessary for the salvation of each human being because she obtains for us Christ and through her own sacrifice she consents to the redeeming death of Jesus, principle of our own eternal salvation.

Ever since the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery we have been and are in the last times, the times of consummation, and we are tending toward our own consummation in death. For this consummation we are in need, as Jesus Christ wanted to need her loving presence. So also are we in need of her merciful intercession, and so are we through her to realize the mystery of our final perseverance. Our salvation began with the “yes” of Mary at Nazareth; this “yes” was renewed at the foot of the Cross. It should end and be consummated with our participation in her tears and in her mental crucifixion, her martyrdom under the shadow of the Cross.

Part I

Let us deepen the thoughts just proposed with the help of St. Bernadine of Siena: Jesus saw His Mother totally transformed and crucified, because she was united with Him. If Paul was crucified with Christ, how much more Mary Immaculate would be! (1)

Her blessed soul can be understood as holy: holy through the benediction of the Crucified Christ; sanctified by the offering of His loving sufferings because Christ died for Mary, for her love much more than for ours. She is saved by her Son who is her Savior. Jesus is the Savior of Mary through a preservative Redemption quite distinct from our own expiative (liberative) Redemption. Christ died expiating our sins, but He died to preserve Mary from sin.

To see Christ dying so shamefully, apparently, was a martyrdom for Mary, an invisible martyrdom, contemplated by the Holy Angels and by us as we exercise the eyes of faith. With faith Mary offered the life of Jesus to His eternal Father; with hope she expected His imminent Resurrection promised for the third day; with love for the three divine Persons and for us she offers her heart, believing, hoping and loving: through the exercise mainly of the theological virtues. Her spiritual suffering is greater than the physical sufferings of the martyrs. Her suffering comes from faith and love.

Part II

The pains of Mary under the Cross are the same as the sufferings of her Son, that is, they are due mainly to the invisible sins of the world more than to His own visible wounds. According to St. Bernadine of Siena the suffering of Mary was great because Mary knew that her dying Son was the Son of God. (2)

Then, too, Mary loved Christ because she was so like to Him: Christ was such, because He came from the substance of the Virgin Mother. Similitude is a cause of love. Also, a mother loves her son more than others when he is wiser, more powerful, more generous and more beautiful, and better than others. For all these motives there was a supreme love for Christ on the part of His Mother and consequently a supreme bitterness of pain, according to Eadmer of Canterbury, (twelfth century disciple of St. Anselm). (3) Another reason for Mary’s suffering was this. She took a great pleasure in His presence; so the sadness of His absence was all the greater. She loved Him as the Creator and the Lord of everything; she loved Him as her Master eating with her. So she suffered extremely when He was taken away from her and could say with Ruth: “Call me Bitter” (Ruth 1:20).

According to St. Augustine in his Confessions, the death of a friend produces numerous effects; (4) how much more the death of an only son.

A first effect is a darkening of the heart. Mary could say with the psalmist (Ps 37:11): “My heart is troubled,” and with the book of Lamentations: “I am full of bitterness and sorrow” (1:20).

A second effect of the death of a friend, or of a son is the fact that everything seems now to look like death. The fatherland becomes a torture, the family home a great unhappiness. As Rachel crying over her sons did not want to be consoled (cf. Jer. 31:15; Mt 2:18), so Mary did not want to receive earthly consolations, but rejoiced. I would add, rejoiced in the salvation of the world to which, as she knew perfectly well, she was contributing.

Much more than David on the occasion of his son Absalom’s death (cf. 2 Sam 18:33), Mary would have liked to die instead of Christ, and for Him.

And why is it that Mary did not die at the foot of the Cross? Eadmer of Canterbury answers that she would have died if the Holy Spirit had not strengthened her. The Spirit of Consolation was interiorly teaching Mary that death was not taking final hold of her Son, but was a triumph submitting all things under Him. (5)

The Blessed Virgin also suffered seeing the friends of her Son, His disciples, running away as cowards: the very same persons who had promised shortly before to die with Him, now leaving Him alone with His Mother.

Several other points increased the grief of Mary: for instance, by being present and not absent and so seeing herself powerless to help Him. There was no one to console her.

So Mary seeing and considering all these points did indeed experience an extreme sorrow. She was indeed a bitter sea, on whom so many waves of sadness were converging. Each circumstance of the Passion was a river of suffering for her. Hence, with the book of Lamentations we can address her: “Your heart breaking is like a great sea” (2:13). (6)

She absorbed all these sufferings without any impatience. Their fruits overflow upon us. We have all received from Mary’s fullness present grace and future glory. May her very beloved Son mercifully communicate to us, through her, grace and glory.

Indeed, we can say that St. Bernadine of Siena has most intensely and acutely sounded the ocean depths of Mary’s suffering at the foot of the Cross. (7) Oh, all of you who pass near Calvary, consider and see if there is a suffering like my suffering! (cf. Lam 1:12 )

Part III

Oh, Our Divine Mistress, we are filled with compassion. Pierce our hearts with an arrow of love from your heart. Enable us to share your sufferings.

Through her compassion Mary, crucified with Christ for our love and salvation, merited the glory of her wonderful Assumption. In this glory, the Virgin Mother sees and loves us, she sees all the Masses being celebrated on earth every day for two thousand years and till the end of history.

Mary offers unceasingly, in the glory of her Assumption, in her face-to-face vision of the Trinity, the Passion of Jesus re-offered by Him at each Mass. She also offers with her Son her own compassion at the foot of the Cross, indeed all the sufferings of her entire earthly pilgrimage, during each of our Masses. She is eternally participating, as Mother and Servant of God, in Christ’s prophetic, priestly and kingly mission. Through the Mysteries of the Rosary the great Co-operator of Christ, Mary, His Mother, announces to the world His Incarnation as Son of Man, His Passion as Priest, His Resurrection as glorified Man of Sorrows. She offers Jesus and herself so that Jesus in her be ever more glorified till the end of human history.

In return, Mary in our name loves Christ and asks that we should love her as He loved her.

This is the commandment, the last will of Christ: we should love Mary as He loved her. He loved her, that is, more than any other human being. Christ loves all of us, His brothers and sisters: not equally, but unequally. The privileges He conferred on her: the divine maternity, perpetual virginity, unique cooperation in the salvation of the world, death out of love, all these privileges indicate that Jesus loved Mary more, very much more than He loves us, and that He died for her still more than He died for each one of us. So in return for His and her love towards us, Jesus wants us to love Mary, our privileged and unique Sister, more than any other purely human being. He desires that we always be ready to die for her love, in order to confess before men and women that we love her and her wishes to the point of proclaiming ever more that she is the Holy Mother of a Saving God.

Through the sacramental grace of our daily communions and through the grace of our spiritual communions, Christ wants to come into each one of us in order to promote in us daily increased love for Mary, Mother of Sorrows, Mother of Unity. Let us become ever more Johns who receive her in the secret home of our heart. Let us, during our thanksgiving, adore Jesus in union with Mary full of compassion and glorify Jesus who granted to Mary a unique participation in the Mystery of salvation. Let us during our thanksgiving after communion offer to Jesus all the loving sufferings of Mary during her whole life for the glory of the Father.

Christ sacrifices Himself in all Masses celebrated till the end of human history. This sacrifice includes the adoration of the salvific and sanctifying will of the Father on Mary.

The late Fr. Bertrand de Margerie was a member of the French and American Societies of Marian Studies, the International Society of Patristic Studies and the Pontifical Roman Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas at Rome. Fr. de Margerie was also a frequent contributor to L’Osservatore Romano. This article was first published in Mary at the Foot of the Cross II, Acts of the International Symposium on Marian Coredemption, Academy of the Immaculate, 2002.


(1) Sermon 57, De la Vergine Maria, in Delle Prediche volgari (Pistoia 1934) vol. II, pp. 408-409. On the coredemption in St. Bernadine cf. Bernardino de Armellada, “La corredenzione di Maria in San Bernardino da Siena e in San Lorenzo da Brindisi” in Maria Corredentrice. Storia e Teologia II (Frigento 1999) pp. 129-152.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Tractatus de Conceptione Santae Mariae.

(4) Bk 4, ch. 4-9.

(5) Tractatus de Conceptione, ch. 5.

(6) Cf. Bernardino de Armellada, op. cit, p. 136, note 23.

(7) Ibid., especially pp. 148-150, with extensive citations.