I've been reading The Dolorous Passion as my main Lenten reading. The beginning, as I mentioned, is not difficult to get through. It's amazing how much detail there is in the book. No, it's not Scripture or inspired. It's merely a private revelation, which the Church always gives us the option of accepting or not. Catholic Answers gives us a bit of an explanation (full text is at the above link):
"Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium [collective sense of the faithful] knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such ‘revelations’" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 67).
These visions, then, are left up to us as to whether or not we wish to accept them. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, however, was bound by them, since she was given them. (This site provides much more detail, and New Advent has information on the topic, as well, though their depth often proves a bit much for me. EWTN also has some information on private revelations here.)
Since we've declared Sundays in Lent to be (nearly) electronic-free - no computer, no Wii, no TV - I haven't posted yet on what I've read. I read through the first part of the book, which contains descriptions of the preparation for and the celebration of the Pasch. It ends with Jesus and the eleven (Judas had gone on to finish his betrayal of Our Lord) leaving the Upper Room and going to the Garden.
I mentioned it before: this part is the easiest to read. You are drawn into the story and drawn into the celebration. How could the Apostles have really known, even if Jesus Himself was trying to tell them, that so much could go so "wrong" in such a short time? No wonder they couldn't believe Him!
Some of the details were interesting, such as there being a portion of the Blessed Sacrament left and that it was stored - with a lamp lit nearby - in a space within the Upper Room. This setup gives the impression that perhaps that was the first church and that there was a Tabernacle there. I found this idea intriguing. It also reminded me of our own Holy Thursday Mass, when the priest consecrates enough hosts to remain for Good Friday services. (Good Friday and Holy Saturday are the only two days of the year that there are no Masses celebrated in any Catholic churches in the world. The Easter Vigil, because it begins well after sundown, is considered to be an Easter Mass.)
One thing that is standing out for me during this reading of the book is that Judas is presented as one who has been more and more dissatisfied with Jesus' non-action. To our human eyes, it doesn't seem that He is establishing His Kingdom: the House of David that will never fall, the Kingship that will never end. And Judas' impatience has driven a wedge between him and God.
How often are we this way? I know that there are times when I am impatient with God, when I want Him to just HURRY UP and do something. When I pray for something - something good and wonderful and right - only to be told, "Wait."
I don't want to wait. I'm like a small child in Toys R Us, pitching a fit and kicking on the floor, screaming, "I WANT IT NOW!!!"
But God's time is not ours, and we must all remember that. We can't be like that child. We can't be like Judas, trying to force our timing on God. Patience.
I've begun the next part of the book, as well, which begins with Jesus and his Apostles arriving at Mount Olivet, where Jesus begins to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is where it becomes difficult and emotionally exhausting to read.
First, let me explain a little about that.
When you watch the movie The Passion of the Christ, there are visual elements you might miss. You can't see everything at once, or you might close your eyes at a painfully difficult part of the movie. But when you read about the Passion, you can't avoid it. It's all there, and it's all laid out in front of you.
When you're confronted with Jesus in the Garden, His soul nearly crushed with sorrow over our sins, it's painful to see. He suffers in Gethsemane because He sees the sins of humanity: from the fall of Adam to the end of the world. And when Sister Emmerich says that she sees her own sins among them, you realize that your own sins are there, too.
For me, I realize that my sins are there, and it hurts me to know that I've caused Our Lord this suffering. When Sister Emmerich speaks of those who reject the Faith or the Church, of those who blaspheme, of those who remain in the Church and yet wound her from within, I realize that I'm there. She sees my sins, too. Surely she did not see them as clearly as her own, but there they are.
And the thought that I would see my sins, laid out before me, knowing that they were a cause for the lashes on the back of my Savior, the nails in His hands and feet ... that is nearly unbearable.
When Jesus goes to his Apostles - Peter, James, and John - and finds them exhausted from fear and sleeping, I know this is how He finds me most of the time. Sleeping.
He is anxious, but still, He is their Shepherd. And He is gentle when waking them. "Could you not stay with me but an hour?"
Am I so gentle when I find my own children doing something aside from what I left them to do? This comes up and practically slaps me in the face. Even these great saints, these Fathers of the Church, were not perfect. Why do I expect more from others? Why do I expect so much less from myself?
I'm still in the garden, as far as my reading goes, and it is rather difficult from here on out. I'll update again when I can. I need to take breaks from this book at times, and that's when I'll update from the other books I'm reading this Lent.
Have a blessed and fruitful Lent!