“And you yourself a sword shall pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”—Luke 2:35
It’s happening again—you find yourself sinking into hopelessness as you scroll or flip or turn page after page of devastating world news. Your own life is heavier now, too, especially after the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the global pandemic. Your heart vacillates in that enigmatic space between hope and fear, and you find yourself in a perpetual state of waiting—but for what? For whom?
Are we like the ten wise virgins, or the ten foolish ones? Do we go about our routines with a sense of attunement to God, always listening in some distant part of our souls for what He is asking of us next? Or do we find ourselves becoming drowsy with worldly affairs, too consumed by what everyone tells us we need to—and can—control so that we are safe?
The reality is that we can never trade safety for fidelity to God. And every one of us comes to a place of reckoning, where we must choose. We have entered troubling times, but there are more troubling times in store. We don’t know yet what they are, but what we do know is this—we can walk with Mary in our grief.
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, a devotion that began in the thirteenth century among the Servite Order. It became popularized by St. Bridget of Sweden, after Our Lady appeared to her and revealed the graces she promised to devotees who prayed to her Sorrowful Heart. These include:
- 1. “I will grant peace to their families.”
- 2. “They will be enlightened about the Divine Mysteries.”
- 3. “I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.”
- 4. “I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my Divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.”
- 5. “I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”
- 6. “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death. They will see the face of their Mother.”
- 7. “I have obtained this grace from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.”
Grieving with Mary can transform the way we see ourselves, our loved ones, and all of humanity. It can change our hearts, shift our perspectives, and open our souls to greater graces in times of trial and adversity. Praying to Our Lady of Sorrows, we ask that she might reveal to us what is hidden in our lives; that is to say, we ask her to show us what we don’t yet understand that is causing us suffering or oppression. This could be due to a diabolic stronghold, a pattern of sin or vice, or seeing ourselves with greater humility.
When we first come to the Blessed Mother with our specific burdens, we ask her for a participation of her grace and a portion of her heart. These two requests originate from St. Louis de Montfort’s Marian spirituality in his classic, True Devotion to Mary. I assure you, she will grant you these. In meditating upon her own sufferings, we gain greater awareness of the Passion of her Son and His sacrifice of love—a personal gift of mercy—to each of us. These are graces that, in turn, chip away at our wounds and exchange the pain for a deeper love. That is the portal to our ultimate healing.
Reflecting with Our Lady upon each of the seven sorrows might result in something like this:
- Prophecy of Simeon—considering the feeling of discovering painful news; ask ourselves—am I afraid of my own cross right now? Then pray for the ability to abandon your sufferings to God’s providence.
- The Flight into Egypt—thinking of the exile parents might experience when tragedy strikes their family, which can include immense loneliness or a feeling of estrangement; ask ourselves—do I struggle with submitting to God’s permissive will when my cross becomes heavier? Then pray for the humility to accept whatever God permits, as our Blessed Mother did.
- The Loss of the Child Jesus—imagining the pain of losing a child and not knowing where they might be; ask ourselves—when have I felt lost in my life? Is someone I love lost right now? How can I imitate Our Lady in how I handle my losses? Then pray for the gift of total trust in God’s will.
- Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way to the Cross—empathizing with the horror of observing someone you love suffer and you are entirely helpless; ask ourselves—what am I afraid to face in my life right now, and how can I turn to face the suffering Jesus in that pain? Then pray for the grace of fortitude, the ability to do what is arduous and difficult.
- The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus—remembering how Mary never left Jesus and followed Him all the way to the foot of the Cross; ask ourselves—is the road I’m on long right now and the journey excruciating, and if so, how might allowing Mary to walk with me on my own Calvary bring me consolation? Then pray for the gift of fidelity to God until death.
- Taking Down the Body of Jesus from the Cross—finding gentleness in tending to the wounds of others, and of ourselves; ask ourselves—how can I console both the suffering of Jesus and Mary by uniting my wounds to theirs? Then pray for the grace of charity and clemency toward those who hurt us.
- The Burial of Jesus—finding hope when all seems lost; ask ourselves—what do I have to bury in my life right now? Then pray for the gift of hope.
Grieving with Mary resembles a pathway through the heart. We begin by trusting her with the darkest parts of ourselves that we may not even have the strength to give to the Lord. In turn, her maternal mercy and kindness become the balm that can soothe the ache we still carry.
image: Our Lady of Sorrows statue at the Church of Saint Anne (Lobor, Croatia) / photo by Zvonimir Atletic / Shutterstock.com