Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, and I am…pouting. That’s right. I’m having a good long pout because, normally, I go to Mass on our Blessed Mother’s feast days and – or at least – visit her in the Schoenstatt Marian Shrine near my home. Not today.
I didn’t plan my day well and missed my opportunity because we had to take the van in for repairs and my husband needs his station wagon to make pickups and deliveries for his printing business. It doesn’t look like there’s much chance of going this evening, either. So, I’m sitting at home here, pretending to be working in the office but really I’m pouting like a little kid. And that’s exactly what’s drawn me to write this little reflection.
As I was making my way through my pout, I began to realize that there are other ways to commemorate this feast day. In particular, I can do acts of love for Mary that will help in a small way to ease her sorrows. For example, I can do my work with extra diligence and offer it for the souls in purgatory. I can say my rosary with extra reverence and offer it for the conversion of sinners. I can bring joy to someone I know who is sick or lonely by making a quick phone call or sending a cheery note or email. I can eat lighter meals and refrain from eating between them and offer it for those who must do without nourishment. I can offer my discouragement over having to stay home for someone who rarely gets to attend Mass at all. I can be extra attentive and loving toward my family and offer it for the intentions of the Holy Father. The list is endless!
I’ll see if I can manage to do all of those things, but the thing I most want to do is to united my sorrows with that of Our Lady of Sorrows. Surely, there are countless times she experienced pain, but today we especially remember seven – The Seven Sorrows of Mary:
Simeon’s prophecy that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction and Mary’s heart, too, would be pierced with sorrow (Lu 2:34-35) Can we imagine what that must have been like? There Mary and Joseph were, with their brand new baby boy and their hearts filled with joy and anticipation of their lives together and Simeon flattens their hopes with his prediction.
The flight into Egypt (Mt 2:13). Imagine packing whatever you could grab into the back of your car and taking off to a foreign country where you didn’t know the culture or language, had no place to live and no idea of how you’d provide for your family. Then imagine there’s a legion of hit men out there waiting to kill your child on sight!
The loss of the Child Jesus (Lu 2:43-45). Ever lose one of your kids in the store? Do you remember the panic in your heart? Now multiply that by about a thousand and you might have an inkling of what our Blessed Mother went through.
Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary (Lu 23:26). If you’ve ever watched a loved one suffer in the hospital, you might have the tiniest idea of our Lady’s agony. They’re in pain, you can’t help them, and so you can only stand by, watching, waiting, and praying. It’s a hopeless, helpless feeling.
Jesus’s death on the Cross (Jo 19:25). When my father died, I felt as though someone had ripped my heart right out and pushed me off the edge of a cliff, letting me fall in to an endless, dark abyss. I’m sure this can’t begin to compete with the loss of a child through such brutal torture as our Lord suffered.
Jesus’ body is laid in Mary’s arms (Mt 27:57-59). When our nine-year-old standard poodle, Schatzie, suddenly became seriously ill, we had to put her down. Two of our sons and I stayed in the room with her as the vet gave the lethal injection. The three of us sobbed uncontrollably as Schatzie slowly drifted away from us, even though we knew it had to be. Even the vet had tears in her eyes. We all petted her one last time while her body was still warm, feeling the softness of her snout, the fuzziness of her curly coat, and wishing she could come back to us. How could our Blessed Mother have endured holding her dead Son in her arms, even though she knew it had to be?
Jesus’ body is placed in the tomb (Jo 19:40-42). I once read a passage in which the author said that, although Mary knew the Scriptures and prophecies inside and out and trusted completely in the will of God, she did not have full knowledge of how the Resurrection would unfold. We’ve all said goodbye at the grave of a loved one, and we now have the proof and assurance of the Resurrection. We can, with certainty, expect to see him or her again someday, but the ache in our hearts and the emptiness in our core remains. Did our Blessed Mother have that same ache? That same emptiness? Likely that, and much more.
When I meditate on Mary’s Seven Sorrows, my own seem so small and insignificant. Pouting over having to stay home today seems, well, childish when compared to the sufferings of our Blessed Mother. So, I gladly offer what I can to her in the way of deeds and sacrifices so that her sorrowful heart might experience a little joy.