Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows

Today is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Sorrow is a univeral experience. We have all had experiences of sorrow. All of us have had or will have experiences of major loss or heartbreak. Death of a parent. Divorce. Loss of job (when there is little money in the bank and a family to support). Death of a spouse, or a child. Amputation of a limb. The breakup of a long term relationship. Rejection. Loss of custody of a child. Lost of a home (due to fire, earthquake, or hurricane flooding.) Rape. Loss of sight or hearing.

I’m not talking here about mere misfortune – things like having one’s wallet stolen (even if it was just after we took $200 from the bank), or breaking a favorite vase (even if it was a wedding gift from our favorite aunt), or missing the connecting flight on a vacation (even if it mean losing a precious day of relaxation). And I’m also not talking about a minor setback – like not getting a wanted promotion or not getting into one’s first choice of law school. Rather, I’m talking about an experience of sorrow that strikes to the bone, that changes life at the core. An experience that takes away something that was at the center of life – be it a person, a position, a plan, a lifestyle.

This Memorial 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 sorrows of her life contain a message of strength and encouragement to us in our own sorrow. As Joyce Rupp writes, “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.”

You might take some time today reflecting on one or more of the Seven Sorrows of Mary to see what they have to say to you about your own experiences of suffering. Here they are, with their scriptural references:

The prophesy of Simeon – Luke 2:27-35
The flight into Egypt – Matthew 2:13-15
The losing of Jesus in the temple – Luke 2:43-51
Mary meets Jesus carrying his cross – Luke 23:27
Mary stands beneath the cross of Jesus – John 19:25-27
Mary receives the dead body of Jeseus – John 19:38
Jesus is laid in the tomb – John 39:42