The devotion of St Paul of the Cross to the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary
"At the cross Her station keeping, stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last. Through Her heart, His sorrow sharing, all His bitter anguish bearing, now at length the sword has passed." (Stabat Mater prayer)
The Passion of Jesus was a the source and center of devotion in the life of St Paul of the Cross. The only devotion that could equal the devotion he had to the Passion was the tender devotion that he had towards our Blessed Lady. He began everything with Her blessing. Nearly all his greatest favours were received on Her feasts, and he was blessed with many beautiful visions of Her glory. The part of Her life that had the greatest attraction for him was Her sufferings at the foot of the Cross.
Paul knew that his devotion to the Passion of Jesus would not be complete without its counterpart: -devotion to the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin. His thoughts nearly always brought him to Mount Calvary; and who can ascend this mountain of bitterness without giving a thought to Her who stands transfixed with grief at the foot of the Cross? At times he would say, "Whoever goes to our crucified Lord will find His Mother with Him--where the Son is, there is the Mother." And in explaining the words of Jeremiah, "Great as the sea is thy sorrow," he used to say, "The sorrow of Mary is like the Mediterranean Sea, from which one passes into the boundless ocean of the Passion of our Lord." And he would often add: "The soul can always become rich by fishing for the pearls of the virtues of Jesus and Mary."
When speaking of Our Lady, he generally came to Her sorrows, and then he would exclaim, as if he felt those sorrows himself, "Ah, poor mother! poor mother! "
He said one day to the students (the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was not then defined),-
"This doctrine (Immaculate Conception) has not been declared an article of faith by holy Church, but I would give my blood and sacrifice my life in torments in defence of it; and if by doing this I did not become a martyr, I am sure I should give great glory to this august Lady. Oh I happy me, if this might take place."
As he was often beset by illness and troubles he used to say,-"These are the times when the Blessed Virgin comes in to help." He never pronounced the name of Mary without bowing his head, or taking off his cap, after he began to wear one.
An interior voice and a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary
One day, in the summer of 1720, St Paul was returning home, after having been to Holy Communion in the church of the Capuchins, when he had the following vision: He was wrapped up in ecstasy, and saw himself clo thed in a long black tunic, with a whi te cross upon the breast of it, and the Sacred Name of JESUS in white letters written under it. He heard an interior locution, and the voice said:
"This is to signify how pure and spotless should be the heart which bears engraven upon it the Sacred Name of Jesus." Before the ecstasy ceased, the tunic was presented to him, and he embraced it joyfully. He then felt a burning desire to collect companions, and found, with the approbation of the Church, a congregation, he thought its name should be “The Poor of Jesus".