The Mystery of the Crown of Thorns
by A Passionist Father
Preserving Christian Publications, Inc.
Albany, NY


Through the thorny crown of Jesus' head
    To glory's didem we are led.---St. Jerome

         There is a considerable number of Catholics who refuse to practice devotional exercises, unless they are enticed by a list of indulgences. Indulgences are without doubt desirable spiritual advantages, which we should all be eager to obtain whenever we can. But we should not mistake the means for the end of a Christian devotion. Many Catholics speak and act in relation to indulgences as if these were the principal end of their practices of devotion. But we should in our pious exercises consider the honor and glory of God of higher importance than our own personal advantage. We should not behave like hired servants, who refuse to work for a master except wages are bargained for beforehand. We should not act as selfish little children, who neglect a task imposed on them by their parents or teachers, except some sweetmeats or a premium is promised them. Obedience to paternal authority, and the gratification which good and docile children will give to their parents and teachers by their virtuous conduct, should be their sweetest and most precious inducement in the accomplishment of their duties and the manifestation of their filial affection. Those children who study to please their parents through disinterested motives of filial love, surely deserve greater praise and a richer reward than those who act only through selfish interest and personal gratification.

<>        The same principle is sound in relation to our devotional practices towards God. Let us by all means try to gain as many indulgences as we can. But we should not make them the inseparable condition and much less, the principal object of all our devotional exercises. Let us be more generous and noble in the service of God. Love should be our noblest motive, and His Divine honor and glory our highest ambition. With St. Ignatius Loyola, let us often say, and always act, For the greater glory of God. "If when you perform any good work agreeable to God," St. John Chrysostom says, you expect any other reward, you show that you do not understand how good it is to please Him. Did you comprehend the sublimity and excellence of this privilege, you could never reckon any other reward equal in value to that of pleasing the infinite Majesty of God. [De compo Cordis ad Stellam, lib. 2.] The sweetest happiness and highest reward of the Angels and Saints in Heaven is their perfect knowledge that they are pleasing, praising and glorifying God. These maxims are not less true because they are sublime and little appreciated in practice. Let us remember that true devotion must have God, and not man, for its principal object and final end. For true devotion, according to the Angelic doctor, St. Thomas of Aquin, is an habitual disposition of the will that makes us prompt and cheerful in everything that tends to the service, honor and glory of God. We should never suspect that God will ever allow Himself to be outdone in loving generosity. The less we seek ourselves in the service of God, the more abundant reward we shall receive from Him, "Who is our reward exceeding great."

        1. This should in a more special manner be our rule in all our devotional exercises relative to the sacred Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. This Divine Victim of charity did not seek Himself in the sufferings and humiliations of His bitter Passion, but, on the contrary, He completely sacrificed everything to the honor and glory of His Heavenly Father, and for the redemption, salvation and glorification of our soul. "Because with the Lord, there is mercy, and with Him plentiful redemption." [Ps. 129: 7] The promotion, then, of the honor and glory of God will be the first and best fruit of our devotion to the Crown of Thorns.

        2. The second and next to it will be an increase of loving compassion for our dear Savior crowned with thorns and saturated with opprobrium for our sake.

        3. The third will be an increase of true Christian respect and genuine obedience to all our legitimate superiors but more especially to the Supreme Pontiff, the infallible, Vicar of Jesus Christ, the visible head of the Church upon earth, the first and highest ecclesiastical authority, the unerring teacher of mankind, so impiously misrepresented, so maliciously persecuted and oppressed in these evil days of arrogant infidelity. We may be confident that our devotion will shorten the time of trial, and rapidly accelerate the epoch of universal triumph for the Holy See and for the whole Catholic Church.

       4. When harassed with internal anguish of spirit, occasioned by scruples of conscience, by temptations, and especially when oppressed by calumny, when embittered by reproaches, by insults, by treachery, by injustice, by persecutions, we will find comfort and courage to bear these trials with Christian resignation and merit, by devoutly reflecting on the example of our Divine Lord and Sovereign King crowned with sharp thorns, and subjected by cruel and impious men to the most painful sufferings, and to the most degrading humiliations. He is our Master, we are His servants. The beads and badge of the Crown of Thorns will by happy experience be found highly conducive to the attainment of this important object in a time of trial.

       5. Persons afflicted with headaches, so numerous in these days, will through this salutary devotion, obtain physical relief, or at least moral and spiritual comfort in their painful sufferings, through a special compassion and help of our Lord, Who knows how to compassionate our infirmities. Strengthened by His Divine grace, encouraged by His example, they will bravely endure these painful trials with greater merit, and thus obtain an increase of joy and glory for all eternity in Heaven. We trust that it will not be considered out of place to state, as a fact connected with this subject, that some experience of these sufferings and trials have contributed much to the idea and execution of this humble work in memory of the Crown of Thorns.

       6. Because, as we learn from the Gospel, Pagan soldiers were, under the instigation of the evil spirit, the barbarous authors and the cruel instruments of those atrocious sufferings and profound humiliations of our Divine Lord, the Sovereign King of the Universe; so it is to be hoped that all true Christian soldiers, more especially those who may and will be in the glorious service of the Pope and of the Church, will be induced to adopt this holy devotion with the pious intention and noble resolve of offering to our Blessed Lord some atonement for the outrages heaped upon Him by Pagan military men at His painful and humiliating crowning with thorns.

       7. Finally, let us hope with St. Jerome that through our fidelity in practicing and promoting the devotion of the beads and badge of the Crown of Thorns, we may deserve to obtain the glorious crown of eternal life. By reciting the beads and wearing the badge of the Crown of Thorns we will, in these dangerous times of fierce conflict of Pagan might against Christian right, and of infidel error against Catholic truths, be daily reminded, that "Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God." [Acts 14: 21]

        But by our fidelity and fervor in this holy devotion we hope to obtain the gift of final perseverance in the faith, love and service of our Sovereign King, fighting manfully even unto death for His honor and glory, and thus deserve the promised crown of eternal bliss in the Kingdom of Heaven. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." [Apoc. 2: 10] "Studeamus nunc ut membrorum vita capitis sit corona." [St. Augustine]



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