Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. For centuries, one of the titles that has been used for Mary is “Mother of Sorrows” or “Our Lady of Sorrows” because of the pain and suffering she experienced as the mother of Jesus.
It is also the case that Mary’s experiences of suffering – which are expressed in the Seven Sorrows of Mary – symbolize and mirror the many types of suffering that always have and that continue to afflict human beings today. A parent is told her infant child will suffer greatly. A mother flees with her young children because someone is trying to harm them. A child is lost and can’t be found (in Mary’s case Jesus is found in three days; many mothers have lost children that have never been found). A parent watches a grown child carrying a tremendous burden, one that will ultimately kill him. Someone stands watching a loved one dying and then holds the dead body in her arms and then buries them.
This is a day that invites us to be with Mary in our experiences of sorrow. Whether or not one has any special affiliation or devotion to Mary, I think everyone can find something of their own sorrow in Mary’s sorrows and the heartaches and the sorrows of her life can help strengthen and encourage us in our own sorrow. As Joyce Rupp writes in a wonderful book titled, Your Sorrow is my Sorrow,
The painful pieces of Mary’s life help us to get through our own rough-edged moments. We see how she too questioned what was confusing and unclear, how she needed others to be with her in her pain, how she reflected on her experiences in order to find meaning. We also see how her faith sustained her, and how her son gave her the strength to endure. We discover that we are not alone in what is most difficult for us.