On September 15, we celebrated the feast of Mary, the Sorrowful Mother. We tend to associate this title with Mary’s appearance at the foot of the cross where her son was executed. There are many other reasons for calling her “sorrowful.” In fact, there is a devotion named Seven Sorrows of Mary.
We might expect that the mother of the Messiah would lead a charmed life. Her innocence and her great love in allowing God to use her should have insured a future of constant bliss. She was happy. After all, she lived with Jesus for about thirty years. Imagine her joy knowing that the little boy-God in her house in Nazareth was wearing clothes she made and eating food she prepared. She spent hours in private conversation with Jesus. But her life, like ours, had highs and lows. God did not choose to spare her the tribulations that mark our own lives. In fact, she suffered them to an extreme.
She rejoiced to take her baby, Jesus, to the temple for the presentation ceremony, only to learn that her Son and she would face tragedy. Definitely not good news for a new mother. The prophet Simeon likened her future sorrow to a sword piercing her heart.
Then Mary was warned that King Herod was set on murdering her infant. She and Joseph were forced to save Jesus by escaping to Egypt. There the little family lived as refugees in a strange land.
When Jesus was twelve years old, he was missing from the caravan heading home after Passover in Jerusalem. Mothers know the panic of losing sight of a child for a short time in a store. Mary’s distress lasted three days. She probably didn’t sleep at all during those nights.
The day Jesus left to begin his public ministry, Mary felt as sad and worried as a mother sending a child off to college. Later she heard her neighbors saying disturbing things about him: he is possessed.
When Jesus returned home, Mary’s relatives and friends objected to his preaching to the extent that they rushed him to a precipice and were prepared to hurl him over. In Nazareth the ruins of the old church, Our Lady of Fright, stands on Mount Precipice where Mary presumably watched this terrifying event.
Mary’s sorrow culminated with the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. One station of the cross commemorates Mary meeting Jesus as he carried his cross. She saw his tortured body laced with sweat and blood. She gazed on his face beaten and swollen and with thorns sticking into his skin.
Then Mary stood steadfast at the foot of the cross, her mother’s heart laden with sorrow as she watched the agonizing death of her dear Son. His sacrifice was her sacrifice.
During the days after Jesus’s death, Mary probably could not stop thinking about what had transpired. The memory of it haunted her in those hours before her sorrow turned into joy on beholding Jesus risen.
Because Mary knew sorrow, she can identify with us when we deal with tragedies, hardships, and grief. As our loving heavenly mother, Mary will pray for us and bring us comfort . . . now and at the hour of our death.
Here is a beautiful version of a “Stabat Mater.”
• What is your favorite prayer to your Blessed Mother?