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The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows


“Behind every trial and sorrow that He makes us shoulder, God has a reason.” ~ Khaled Hosseini

Today our Church recognizes the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, a liturgical event they dates back to the 15th century. In fact for a while there were two feasts in honor of Mary the Sorrowful Mother, one dating back to the 15th century while the other was established in the 17th century. Both appeared on the liturgical calendar and were celebrated by the Universal Church during that time period, one on the Friday before Palm Sunday while the other was established on September 15th, which is where it remains to this day.

Charles Dickens once said “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before--more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” In the case of Mary, she of the pure and immaculate heart, her sorrow was amplified, her tears more intense, for she possessed the ability to love in ways that no other creature ever could. As Saint Louis de Montfort explains, “If you put all the love of the mothers into one heart, it still would not equal the love of the Heart of Mary for her children.”

The principal biblical references to Mary’s sorrows are found in Luke 2:33-35 and John 19:25-27. The passage from John brings us right to the foot of the cross, where Mary grieves as she watches the life slowly and torturously seep out of her Son. Saint Ambrose spoke of Mary as a sorrowful albeit powerful figure as she remained fearlessly at the cross while others fled. “Mary looked on her Son’s wounds with pity, but saw in them the salvation of the world,” Saint Ambrose would go on to conclude. Luke 2:33-35 delivers Simeon’s prophecy, wherein he foretells of a sword piercing Mary’s soul. These two passages are inexorably linked forever in time, for one predicts what the other will fulfill.

In our 1st Reading from Hebrews (5:7-9), we are told that Jesus “offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Once again, in Jesus we see the perfect example of prayer and obedience, freely relegating himself to the role of suffering servant despite his ethereal pedigree. “He learned obedience from what he suffered,” our author concludes, “and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” To obey Jesus, he who was first obedient, is the call of every follower of Christ. To bring others to him, so that they too can be formed in his likeness through a life lived in prayer and surrender

Many Catholics are familiar with the Seven Sorrows of Mary, a topic we have touched on in recent years There are numerous prayers and supplications that one can partake of in support of this devotion, something I strongly recommend. But as I reflect upon our Heavenly Mother and the love she has shown for each of us, I can’t help but wonder if she suffers in anguish from an 8th sorrow, the sorrow she experiences over all those who refuse to follow and love her Son. The lost souls dying without hope of heaven.

But we can do our part to help alleviate that sorrow. Through prayer and fasting, through evangelical witness, each one of us can help to bring fellow souls to Mary’s Son. To turn her sorrow to joy. As Bishop Robert Barron reminds us, “The minute we walk outside of our church on Sunday we’re in mission territory.” But as Pope Paul VI explained in the aftermath of Vatican II, The men and women of this age listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers. And if he or she does indeed listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.

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Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

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