“Sad is beautiful,” a wise man once told me. There are few expressions that convey this reality as powerfully as the late-medieval hymn the Stabat Mater (“the Sorrowful Mother”), which speaks about the sadness of Mary during the Passion of Jesus. Friends, as we delve into this sacred season, with the Triduum upon us, I wanted to share this beautiful video that captures the sorrow of Our Lady so poignantly in one of the greatest hymns of all time. May it be useful for your meditation on the Passion in the coming days.
As a Franciscan I am proud to say that the authorship of the Stabat Mater—though debated—is most often associated with the Italian Franciscan mystic and poet Jacopone da Todi, who has given us some of the deepest mystical poetry of the medieval period with his work the Lauds. The English author and scholar of mysticism Evelyn Underhill wrote eloquently of Jacopone da Todi, capturing his spirit with these words:
“One of the greatest and most interesting Italian mystical poets: Jacopone da Todi, the typical singer of the Franciscan movement, the first writer of philosophic religious poetry, and perhaps the most picturesque figure in the history of early Italian literature…this vigorous missionary and subtle philosopher: this poet, by turns crude satirist, ardent lover, and profound contemplative, who can sink to the level of the popular hymnal and rise above that of St. John of the Cross.”
I came across these videos, displaying hauntingly beautiful chant from the Russian Orthodox Christian tradition. Please enjoy this musical expression of sacred beauty!
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6
Here is a beautiful version of “O, Come, All Ye Faithful” by music artist Madilyn Paige with a powerful message at the end of the video:
Here’s a very interesting story about Anneliese Michel, the German girl whom the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on. Anneliese conveyed various symptoms of possession in the 1970s, had a series of exorcisms performed, and unfortunately died in 1976 of what the autopsy revealed was malnutrition.
What is less known about Anneliese is that she may have very well been a victim soul, chosen by God for great suffering for the redemption of sinners. Reading this story about her I also found out that she kept a diary in which she recorded conversations with Jesus and Mary—experiencing various mystical phenomena in addition to the possession. According to her diary, Jesus apparently said to Anneliese: “You will become a great saint.” A reality that, out of humility, Anneliese did not want to believe, but wept with tears — feeling the truth of the Lord’s words when they were spoken.
I was also glad to find out that the eminent Spanish exorcist, Father Jose Antonio Fortea — in my opinion, perhaps the most knowledgeable person in the world on the topic of demonology and exorcism — has co-authored a book on Anneliese’s case: Anneliese Michel: A True Story of a Case of Demonic Possession. I have been reading the book the past couple of days, and recommend it highly, having gained a lot in recognizing the purity of Anneliese Michel, as a young woman in love with God, and the sincerity of her family, friends, and priests who performed the exorcisms to try to help and heal Anneliese.
It is a fascinating story that speaks not only to the reality of the demonic but also the gift of sacred love, portraying a young woman who could’ve been healed and set free from her condition, but was given the option to suffer for the redemption of sinners: out of love for God and for her brothers and sisters, throughout the world, Anneliese chose the Cross. May we learn from her selfless and courageous witness.