Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows. It is a day, for me, to be reminded and comforted by the fact that my God, and His Mother, understand suffering. We ALL understand suffering, in one form or another. Financial hardships, sickness, depression, job stress, school stress, worry over a child, spouse or parent, future fears and past regrets. None of us is immune.
Yet our culture propagates the myth that if we just believe enough, or pray enough, or do enough good things, our lives will be ‘blessed’. And we really do want to believe that. I’m often reminded of the animated movie “An American Tale”, when the mice are preparing to leave the Old Country to come to America, and they are so sure that when they get here, it will be Utopia. They are singing a song that promises “There are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese!” One would think a reasonable, thinking mouse would have known that was ridiculous. Even when the truth is obvious, we tend to prefer to believe in the fantasy. Yet reality always sets in, and pain is an unavoidable part of our lives.
Over the past almost three years, our family has experienced an amazing amount of suffering. But we were able to find meaning in that suffering, because we understand what the Church teaches about the suffering of Christ. We understand that suffering, when offered up to God as a sacrifice, can be purifying, and can fill us with love and understanding for others. Instead of cultivating the poisons of bitterness, resentment or self-pity, we can accept whatever suffering comes our way, knowing that Jesus suffered more, and He understands. We are able, in a small and feeble way, to unite ourselves with Him.
So what does all of this have to do with Our Lady of Sorrows? Well, a lot. Mary is the perfect example of someone who suffered, yet never lost faith.
Traditionally, Mary is said to have Seven Sorrows:
1. The prophecy of Simeon
2. The flight to Egypt
3. The loss of the child Jesus at Jerusalem
4. Meeting Jesus on His way to Calvary
5. Standing at the foot of the Cross
6. Taking Jesus down from the Cross
7. Jesus’ Burial
As a mother, I particularly appreciate what Mary must have
endured. What mother wouldn’t gladly trade places with her child when
he is in pain? Yet the best she could do, as Jesus died an agonizing
death on the Cross, was to stay with Him. Unlike all the apostles save
John, Mary did not flee in fear of her own life. She kept the faith.
She did not abandon her Son, even in the face of obvious defeat. In
her crushing grief, she kept her eyes on God, and did not waver. Three
days later, she was more than rewarded! That’s the kind of faith I
want to have.