Our Lady of Sorrows: Rebuke of Pride, Hope of the Humble

By Chris Sparks

Thank God for the gift of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose feast we celebrate on Sept. 15.

Don’t get me wrong: The joys of Our Lady are very beautiful. Her glories are infinitely wondrous, since they come from her total union with the Holy Spirit, her role as daughter to the Father, and her maternal “yes” that gave birth to her Son, Jesus. Her light is greater than the light of any other saint.

Intense sufferings
But thank God for Our Lady of Sorrows, since in some fashion, it’s her sorrows that make her most familiar to us. She was perfectly perfect in absolutely every way — and even that wasn’t enough to spare her a life filled with some of the most intense sufferings ever endured by a human being. She is inspiring as Sanctissima, Purissima, Immaculata, and yet also imposing, seeming a little impossible to reach. 

As a mother weeping at her Son’s execution for crimes He did not commit — well, all too many mothers have been there, as well. Without the sorrows of our Lord and Our Lady, the Church would be left tongue-tied in the face of the problems of evil and suffering. 

Our Lady of Sorrows is a witness to the truth that often when we fall ill or endure suffering, it has nothing to do with whether we’d been virtuous or vicious, prudent or foolish. Suffering comes for us all; sorrow comes for us all. She knows intimately our sufferings, and bore similar sufferings with grace.

So our tears are not illegitimate, are not some evidence of lack of faith or of sin. Jesus Himself wept over Lazarus, whom He was soon to restore to life, after all (see Jn 11:33-36), so how could His mother have confronted the Passion and death of her Son without tears?

Feast for all
Therefore, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is, in some sense, a feast for all of us who sorrow, all of us who have endured the suffering and death of loved ones. It’s a feast for those who mourn in this fallen world, who aren’t comfortable in the disorder and injustice that plagues human society. Mary, the Sorrowful Mother, is a consolation to those of us who have done nothing wrong and yet somehow have been dealt the losing hand in whatever way — our health, our careers, our fortunes, and the fate of those whom we love. She offers us the hope that her Son may also resurrect our hopes and dreams, may make right what has gone wrong either in this life or in the world to come. 

And yet Our Lady of Sorrows is also a challenge. “… [T]he heart of the swords, seven times wounded, / Was never wearied as our hearts are”  (G.K. Chesterton, “The Towers of Time”). The unbearable becomes bearable as we become transparent to the life and love of God, like Our Lady. Jesus could undertake His Passion, death, and Resurrection because He was wide open to the Father’s will. Similarly, Our Lady was the faithful handmaid of the Lord, and so the Holy Spirit had full freedom of action within her Heart. She could be strengthened and sustained by the full power of God because she was completely pliant to the full will of God. 

Maximum holiness
Of Mary, there is never enough, for in one life, she reached the maximum holiness open to a created person. Her mysteries and splendors are as infinite and varied as she is beautiful, and so she offers us treasures and consolations in every situation. Remember: Three quarters of the Mysteries of the Rosary are joyful, luminous, and glorious; only one quarter of the Mysteries are sorrowful.

And we are given a special gift in the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, with its accompanying promise, made by Our Lady at Kibeho in Rwanda: “Pray my seven sorrows to find repentance.” The sorrows of Our Lady can help liberate us from our own suffering and sin.

So celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows, bringing her your own sorrows. Take up the Seven Sorrows Rosary, and pray for yourself and all in need.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us! 
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