Today, 15 September, is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. On this day we recall the seven great sorrows of the Virgin Mary, which are all intertwined with her Son:
- At the prophecy of Simeon: “You yourself shall be pierced with a sword – so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.” (Luke 2:35).
- At the flight into Egypt; “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt.” (Mt 2:13).
- Having lost the Holy Child at Jerusalem; “You see that your father and I have been searching for you in sorrow.” (Luke 2:48).
- Meeting Jesus on his way to Calvary;
- Standing at the foot of the Cross; “Near the cross of Jesus there stood His mother.” (John 19:25).
- Jesus being taken from the Cross;
- At the burial of Christ.
As part of our reflection upon Our Lady’s sorrows, I would like to offer some thoughts on the theme of sorrow and how Mary joins with our sorrow, both at a personal and collective level, in our modern world.
I feel like I can write a book on the topic of sorrow – there is so much evidence of it everywhere. Nobody likes to dwell on sorrow, but it is the reality of life. We feel that we want to ‘get over it’ or try to get through it as quickly as possible, and onto more positive things. But it is crucial that we take the time to think about how the sorrows in our lives, and in the world around us, can be joined with the sorrows of Jesus and Mary, and in union with them and their humility in suffering we can become stronger.
The fact that we can look to Our Lady as an example of perfect endurance through sorrow should be comforting for us. She suffered immensely for, and with, her Son during crucial moments in His life. From the moment of her humble ‘yes’ to God’s will at the Annunciation, she never abandoned Jesus nor wavered in her faith. Why do I emphasis these words? What can this say about our own sorrows and the sorrows of our Church family, the Body of Christ, today?
Many of us have borne the death of loved ones or friends, we may be facing our own imminent death, or are coping with illness, the breakdown of family or other relationships, homelessness, addictions, unemployment, or other challenges. It is so important to note that today is your day too, as long as you look to Mary and blend your sorrows with hers. Look to your Mother in heaven and realise that she knows how you are feeling and what you are facing. Our exact situations may be different to hers, and we do not live in the same era and place, but pain across time is still pain and she knows it all. Right here. Right now. If we speak to her and present her with our sorrows she will understand because her own heart was pierced with the swords of profound sadness.
…let us contemplate [our most Holy Mother full of sorrows and anguishes] in the kingdom of affliction, where she shared the pains of her Divine Son, Jesus. She is the queen of heaven and earth as well as the queen of martyrs. Just as she surpasses the angels and the saints in holiness and dignity, so she surpasses the sufferers and the martyrs in sorrows.
— Fr Annibale Maria Di Francia, pp 468-469, Rogationist Anthology
When reflecting upon Our Lady’s sorrows, the fifth sorrow above leapt out at me because of the state of our Church today. I believe that in addition to these seven sorrows, Our Lady continues to weep because:
- there are impure priests, religious and lay people who have turned against her Son and followed the devil by committing heinous crimes against innocent children, vulnerable people, and others;
- there are those who appear to have ignored these evil acts, or did not believe the victims, and moved perpetrators from place to place;
- a vast number of good and holy priests, religious and lay people remain in the Church to cope with the mess of this evil, but some seem to be persecuted and abandoned by the faithful and secular society;
- many of us are lukewarm and do not believe in the true presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, nor respect the Mass and Church as a holy place;
- people are trapped by violence, drugs, crime, impurity, and so many other offensive acts which are committed daily on earth;
- many live in poverty and hunger while others have forgotten God, overindulge, focus on money and wealth, and do not help their neighbour.
Today is not about misery or negativity, but we need to be shaken up, I believe. We need to acknowledge that Our Lady’s seven sorrows also stretch into our time today. Her sorrows are not just historical fact, but a perpetual reality as long as many continue to ignore her pleas to return to God and her Son. By focusing on the sorrows of Mary and standing by her and her Son, we can turn this day into an opportunity to ask them for help in our personal sorrows, those of the Church and our world, and implore them for strength, healing, and a new Springtime.
Today is about a chance for action while we still have the time and free will. So what can we do to alleviate Our Lady’s sorrows?
- Do not abandon your faith and the Church. If you are struggling with this because of the state of the Church today, ask God for help. Remember, Jesus, Head of the Church (CCC 792 – 795) is the spotless innocent Lamb. Do not turn your back on Him.
- Continue receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
- Pray daily, especially the Rosary, including the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. There is no power on earth like Our Lady’s Rosary. Make a start.
- Support our good priests, religious and lay people – they need our prayers and companionship in faith.
- Pray for more holy vocations to the priesthood and religious life – this is crucial – start with this short prayer: Send, O Lord, Holy Apostles into Your Church!
- If you know of someone who is considering leaving the Church, or their faith has been shaken, take them under your wing – look out for them and pray for them. Ask Our Lady to help them through you. Remember, you are part of the Body of Christ – the hands and feet of Christ.
Please do not let today’s post be another article you read about another feast day, and is then forgotten.
The Mother of God is still crying. Her sorrows know no limits because she wants us, her children, to know and love her Son.
Over the years there have been numerous reports of statues of the Blessed Virgin which have wept human tears, or even tears of blood. Of those which have been approved by the Catholic Church, we ask ourselves – why is she crying? What is the belief behind her weeping?
With the Lord’s help, in heaven we will enjoy the glory of Jesus and Mary, seeing them face to face; but in this valley of tears, we have to shed our tears with Jesus and Mary; we have to contemplate their suffering, relating to our Lady in sorrow our devotion to her under any title, in any image of Mary we have to see Our Lady in sorrow! If we look at the Virgin in sorrow, we cannot be apathetic! Please observe her pale and pitiful face, her anguish of heart, the seven swords, the violet cloak… she seems to say: “Daughters, sympathise with me, because I am the most afflicted mother.” (Preaching, 28 Sep 1913)
— Fr Annibale Maria Di Francia, p469, Rogationist Anthology
Wouldn’t you want to console your mother, or any mother, who is in deep distress? Wouldn’t you want to remove the swords which have pierced her Immaculate Heart?
Now is the time. Pray.
- The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows by Fr. William Saunders
- Our Lady of Sorrows – Wikipedia
- Our Lady’s Seven Sorrows, Seven Promises, and Fatima’s Connection
- The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady