Within the span of eight days, the Church’s universal calendar graced us with three celebrations of Our Lady — her Nativity, the holiness of her name, and Our Lady of Sorrows. I believe we can make sense of Our Lady of Sorrows through the lens of the two previous celebrations. Mary was born to be the mother of God, the mother of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, but in John 19, we also realize that Our Lady has a double motherhood- as Jesus entrusts John to Mary and Mary to John, thus bestowing a new motherhood upon her as she stood at the foot of the cross. We celebrated Mary’s nativity because of her role in salvation history, that the work of Christ’s redemption begins with her Immaculate Conception and Nativity. And on the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, we remember Mary’s suffering with her son, but also her motherhood of all believers within the Church who suffer and will call upon her as mother.
St. John, speaking about himself and that moment Jesus spoke from the cross, tells us from that hour he took Mary into his home. John represents all of us. His example encourages us to take Mary into our own homes and to live with her. And as John did that, he daily conversed with her, and called upon her by using her holy name. If we allow Mary to live with us, and accept her motherhood, we converse and share with her our many joys and sorrows. Perhaps the most common way we as Catholics converse with Mary is through the rosary, as we ask her to show us the life of Jesus. At the conclusion of the rosary we pray the Hail Holy Queen which contains the following words: “to Thee do we send up our sighs, mourning, and weeping in this valley of tears.” In our sharing and conversations with Our Lady, who lives with us, we should make known to our mother why we weep or mourn, asking her to console us and pray for us.
St. John writes that Mary stood at the foot of the cross. She stood and witnessed the torture, humiliation, and death of her son. And Mary was accompanied by only a few others, who stood by her and consoled her. If Mary lives with us, then we can ask her to stand by us in our suffering. To be with us on the many Good Fridays of our life.
For some, there might be the sorrow of infertility. Ask Mary to stand by you and call upon her name using one of her many titles. Pilgrims visit the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, where many who were infertile prayed and subsequently conceived. Call upon Mary, Our Lady of the Milk or invoke her as Our Lady of the Visitation, recalling the time when Mary went in haste to visit her cousin who was infertile but by God’s grace was with child and would give birth to the Precursor.
Ask Mary to stand by you at times of death in your life, be it an infant through miscarriage, a loved one who died of cancer too soon, or an elderly parent/grandparent who lived a full life. Call upon Mary as Queen of Heaven to comfort you in your sorrow, and ask her to allow that person to stand with her in the Kingdom of her son in the Communion of the Saints.
Are you sick? Ask Mary to stand by you in your time of illness, just as she stood by St. Therese of Lisieux and smiled upon her, obtaining the grace of her healing. Call upon Mary’s name of Health of the Sick or Our Lady of Lourdes, asking her to intercede before her son.
Facing temptation to sin? Allow the one who was preserved from sin, the Immaculate Conception to stand by you, and call upon her name in those moments, asking her to crush the head of the serpent who tempts you.
Are you mourning the fact your children do not practice the faith? Ask Mary, the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners, to pray for them and obtain the grace of their conversion. Ask Mary to stand by your children and gently guide them back to her son’s Church.
The sorrow of Mary in her life was abundant, from her early days with the Christ child to his last hours on the hill of Calvary. And her sorrow and suffering didn’t end when Jesus breathed his last, because now every person was given to her as a son and daughter. As the mother of all believers, she takes up our suffering, and stands by us as we carry our own crosses. Invite her to stand by you in your suffering, and as she does, may she teach you what it means to endure suffering, and seeing your plight, and hearing you call her name, may she intercede before the throne of her son and obtain for you whatever you ask.