Our Lady's Sorrow & Ours…
(from a September 2, 1973 conference)

Love is the measure of any person’s character, and suffering or sorrows are the measure in this life of a person’s love. . . . On this earth love always involves both joy and sorrow, and they often alternate.  Where the love is true, however, even the sorrows are not without joy, for it is a joy to suffer for someone you love.

The alternation of joys and sorrows is seen in the life of Our Lady, and She was always ready for whatever God chose to send.  She had hardly settled down after the excitement and happiness and maternal bliss at the birth of Her Child after nine months of profound Communion, when the first sorrow of Her seven came upon Her.  Since the shepherds had paid their visit on Christmas Day, no one had taken any special notice of Her Son except St. Joseph, but than after forty days of happiness, in the very Temple of God itself, St. Simeon recognizes Him and prophesies that a sword will pierce His Mother’s heart. . . . It was Mary’s first sorrow, and from then on She knew, at least to some extent, what was to come, and the shadow of the Cross was over Her and over Her Son every time She looked at Him.

The distressing prophesy of St. Simeon was very soon to receive its first confirmation . . .  Herod [was seeking] to kill the Holy Child.  This would be no small sorrow to a mother with far less love for her child than Mary had.  And the Holy Family had to go all the way to Egypt.  And while in that foreign place, word reaches Mary of the killing of the Holy Innocents.  Perhaps many of their mothers were known to Her personally.  And as She looks at Her young Son, She knows that one day He Himself will not escape.  When will it be?

. . . The loss of Jesus in the Temple for three days was a very great sorrow indeed.  What an unhappy ending to a joyful pilgrimage to Jerusalem with their remarkable twelve year old boy. . . .  During the first three days She had ever had without Her Child since He was conceived, what Our Lady suffered is beyond description.  She knew that a sword was going to pierce Her heart one day.  Had the time come?  She knew Her Son was in danger of His life.  What had become of Him?

When the Child was found again after three days, the relief must have been extraordinary. . . .  But the answer that He gave [concerning why He had disappeared] was not altogether comforting. . . .  “How is it that you looked for Me?  Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” . . .  His Mother kept all these words in Her heart [but She] no longer understood Her Son . . . He had become independent in a strange way.

. . . we next meet Our Lady of Sorrows as She faces the Passion and death of Christ.  It was one long sorrow, but we divide it up into four for our consideration.

Think of Mary meeting Her Son on the way of the Cross.  As He walks slowly and painfully and with great difficulty, Our Lady sees Him and begins to share the act of sacrifice that He is performing.  She sees the crown of thorns and the Blood.  She sees the exhaustion.  What a terrible change has come over Him. . . .  they look at one another and they cannot speak a word . . . Mary with Her whole Mother’s love cannot do anything to help Him except to pray.  This is the fourth sorrow.

The fifth sorrow is the crucifixion. . .  Thinking about this unbearable sorrow of Mary, Pope Benedict XV said, “It is clear that She so suffered and almost died with Her suffering and dying Son, She so renounced Her maternal rights in Her Son for the salvation of men, that it really must be said that She redeemed the human race with Christ.” . . .

It is worth thinking about . . . how it could be that so good a Man as Our Lord, and so compassionate, and so ready to bear the sufferings of all others, how such a Man could not only allow, but even desire, His own Mother to be present, to see Him die by crucifixion.  This gives some idea of the value of suffering and the importance it gives to the sufferer in the plan of redemption.  It will not surprise us if Our Lord allows us to share the Cross to some extent despite His love and compassion for us. . .

The sixth sorrow came to Mary when the dead body of Jesus was place in Her arms as He was taken down from the Cross.  The peak of Her martyrdom had passed, but there was the aftermath, the sorrow of reaction and of desolation and of loneliness.  Glad that His sufferings were over, it must nevertheless have been a great sorrow to see so closely what sin had done to that most perfect Son of Hers, as She holds His twisted, injured form in Her arms for the last time.

So comes Her seventh sorrow.  Her Child had come to her in a stable.  He leaves Her in the tomb of a friend.  When the stone is placed over the entrance of the tomb, where can She turn?

She had only one interest in life.  There was only one Person Who really understood Her.  There was only One Who could be companion to a soul so deep and pure and serious as Hers.  Now the very sight of Him has gone.  Saints have described the dark night of the soul, which purifies the love and faith and hope of those who are to come to God in this life as far as can be.  No dark night of the soul was ever needed to purify the innocent soul of Mary, or to clarify Her spiritual vision, but She knows the experience through and through:  the pain of loneliness, the pain of separation, the pain of loss. . .

When we consider the Passion of Our Lord, we meet sin and love struggling together and both having profound effects.  We find an image of that same struggle in the Sorrows of Mary.  Love wins the battle, but the price is very high indeed.  It was no cheap victory, and neither is any Christian’s victory cheap. . .

There are no sorrows of ours, none of the things that trouble and upset us, none of the things others do to us to hurt us, and no distress of any kind that we cannot see as a share in some small way in the life of Our Lord and His sorrowful Mother.  And if we had anything like the faith of Mary, we should accept them gladly; we should paradoxically find joy in them.  When our earthly life is over and we are in heaven, we shall be very glad of every sacrifice and sorrow we had on earth, and we shall see how regrettable it was when we tied the hands of Christ by being unwilling to open our arms to what He offered us.

We should keep very close to Mary.  She can teach us to face life and death.  She can also teach us how to find joy deep down in spite of troubles on the surface. . .

Despite the horror of Calvary, Our Lady and St. John and St. Mary Magdalen did not keep away.  By Her presence there, Mary became the Mother of us all.  By his presence there, St. John was consecrated to Mary.  Because of her presence there, St. Mary Magdalen was the first to see the Risen Christ.

. . . So thinking of His Passion and thinking of the Sorrows of Our Lady, let us make a joyful, courageous, serious offering of our lives to Him.  He will not ask more of us than we can bear.  He will not test us beyond our strength.  He will not leave us to carry our cross alone.

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