Lives of the Saints

A Role Model for Hard Times and Suffering

Our Lady of Sorrows also known as Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows)

When crisis hits, how well do you react? Are you able to manage emotional distress?  In a culture where we avoid suffering at all costs, how well are you prepared when you lose a job, get divorced, have a child struggling for life, or see your husband battling to regain health?  Having been through these things, it is by God’s grace and Mother Mary’s example I haven’t cracked.

Through all her suffering, Mary points us to her son’s goodness. Through her eyes, we see suffering as a way for spiritual purification.  We unite our own suffering with the suffering of others to ease a bit of the burden.  We learn that suffering can be our own resurrection.  When we die to ourselves and keep focused on what truly matters, we demonstrate how well we love and pave our way to obtain eternal life.

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows also known as Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows).  Mary’s sorrows as the Mother of Christ are an example of perseverance through suffering.  She experienced many trials throughout her life, beginning with the prophecy of Simeon shortly after the birth of Jesus.  The Holy Family then had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s clutches.  The most significant of her sorrows, however, was undoubtedly the crucifixion of her son.

As you reflect on the significance of this day, I invite you to take a virtual tour of where Our Lady of Sorrows is honored in the Basilica under this title. Perhaps, sit at her feet virtually while you meditate on her seven traditional sorrows, contemplating how we might grow in our own suffering:

  • The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)  “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” As we contemplate this sorrow, we learn how keep faithful despite our circumstances.
  • The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)  After trying to settle down, Mary must deal with traveling many miles to save Jesus.  As we contemplate this sorrow, we learn about the Spirit of poverty and not placing value on material and worldly things.
  • Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50)  After a day of travel, Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was not with their relatives.  Frantically, they headed back.  After three days, they found him.  As we contemplate this sorrow, we learn how to draw near to God and His teachings especially during times of loss, worry, and anxiety.
  • Mary meets Jesus on his way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)  According to Tradition, Mary encountered Jesus as He carried His cross.  Here began Mary’s deepest of sufferings, seeing her only Son being tortured.  When Mary said “yes” to bringing Jesus into the world, she took on both the joys and the pains that came with it.  As we contemplate this sorrow, we learn how to walk alongside those in love who are suffering.
  • Crucifixion and death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)  Mary witnessed Jesus nailed to the cross, suffering for hours.  Despite all her indescribable pain, she trusted God.  Mary truly knows what it is like to suffer.  She is the perfect example of believing in God’s plan even when things look hopeless.  As we contemplate this sorrow, we learn about patience in suffering when we want to ask “Why”, let us ask “Why Not?”
  • The body of Jesus being taken from the Cross (Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)  After Jesus was brought down, Mary could only continue to be in agony at the sight of her dead Son’s body. All who were present joined in her sorrow.  As we contemplate this sorrow, we learn about self-sacrifice for love of God.
  • The burial of Jesus (Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)  Jesus was placed in His tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, according to the Jewish custom of not allowing a dead body to be left exposed overnight.  Mary would continue to suffer.  As we contemplate this sorrow, we learn the finality of death in a worldly sense.

The Devotion of the Seven Sorrows of Mary is a way to connect with Mary and learn from her how to deal with the sorrows of our own hearts. She never sinned, yet experienced incredible sufferings just as we do. We also see that Christ was not the only one to suffer during the Passion. Want to learn more? See more about this devotion.

What are the seven sorrows that have pierced your heart?

Smitten with the goodness of suffering well,

Cynthia

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