This past winter, I made a simple resolution that changed my life.
I resolved to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary every day of Lent.
It was a resolution that I had meant to make for years, ever since I first read Immaculée Ilibagiza’s book, Our Lady of Kibeho. After I learned how Mary, in her apparitions in Rwanda, encouraged a renewal of the devotion of the Seven Sorrows Rosary, I had intended to begin praying it regularly…someday. I even went to our local Catholic bookstore, bought a Seven Sorrows rosary, and learned how to pray it; but despite my good intentions, the beads mostly stayed in my purse, and not in my hands.
This year, though, I felt a strong call to make the Seven Sorrows Rosary my Lenten devotion. So, on Ash Wednesday, I began.
Little did I know what God had in store for me that Lent. Never could I have foreseen that I was about to enter into a season of intense personal suffering. But my Heavenly Father did.
And He gave me the Seven Sorrows Rosary to be my lifeline.
As the weeks of Lent unfolded, someone I love became gravely ill, and my world began to crumble around me. I could not think; I could not write; I could not understand. There were moments when I could hardly breathe—but always, every day, I prayed the Seven Sorrows Rosary, and it brought me peace. It didn’t magically make all my suffering go away, but in God’s merciful design, the prayers united my suffering heart with Mary’s, and the grace I received was like water to the fire in my soul.
It sounds strange: How could meditating on suffering help ease my suffering? Yet, in the paradox of the Cross, it did. In the hardest moments, praying through the Seven Sorrows helped me to remember that heaven understands how it feels to suffer. Walking with Mary was like having the dearest friend beside me to help me endure the pain.
As I prayed the first Sorrow and meditated on the prophecy of Simeon, I learned more each day about what it means to have a sword pierce the heart that loves so deeply.
As I prayed the second Sorrow and meditated on the flight into Egypt, I thought about how far we sometimes have to go, and how much we have to leave behind, in order to help and protect our loved ones—and how God leads us to the right place when we follow Him.
As I prayed the third Sorrow and meditated on Mary losing Jesus in Jerusalem, I considered how the people we love can disappear into sickness, and I clung to the hope of finding them, healthy and whole, at the end of the terrifying search.
As I prayed the fourth Sorrow and meditated on Mary meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary, I found consolation in knowing that Mary understands the agony of seeing our loved ones stumble and fall beneath the weight of the Cross.
As I prayed the fifth Sorrow and meditated on Mary standing at the foot of the Cross, I could see myself standing with her, looking up at my beloved, my crucified Jesus, as all my hopes and dreams for the future were shattering around me.
As I prayed the sixth Sorrow and meditated on Mary holding Jesus’ body at the foot of the Cross, I gained strength to hold and care for my loved one even when hope seemed gone.
As I prayed the seventh Sorrow and meditated on Mary laying Jesus’ body in the tomb, I knew that even when we must turn our loved ones over to the tomb—be it an actual grave or the “tomb” of a hospital bed—we hold onto the promise of a Resurrection that will wipe away all of our tears.
By God’s great mercy, and through the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Fatima in her centennial year, my loved one’s suffering has been lifted, and so has mine. And yet, I continue to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary every day. It has become a part of me. My day does not feel complete without it.
Through the Seven Sorrows Rosary, I have entered more deeply than ever before into Mary’s heart. Through her heart, I have received a new understanding of the level of suffering in the world, and I hope never to forget to pray for those who are suffering all around me. Dear readers, I pray that Mary consoles you in your suffering, too.
Praying alongside Mary in her sorrows, I have also found the peace and hope that abide in her heart. The Seven Sorrows Rosary reminds me every day that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted; those who are crushed in spirit He saves.” (Psalm 34:18)